Sunday, 12 April 2015

The Foundation of Saint-Anne de Beaupré (Canada)

The Venerable Father Passerat had just introduced the Redemptoristine Sisters into Austria (1831). When the sons of Saint Alphonsus had reached as far as America in 1832, the Servant of God resolved to have the nuns follow in their footsteps. It seemed to him to be absolutely in conformity with the views of divine Providence to thus give the daughters of the holy Doctor a part in the immense field that the New Word offered apostolic zeal. And so attempts were made for this purpose, and some time before 1840, some land was purchased for the establishment of a convent of Redemptoristines.

For reasons that have remained unknown to us, this attempt produced no effect. Later on the famous Father Bernard, the first Dutch Redemptorist and the first Provincial of North America (1848-1853), who personally knew the Redemptoristines of Marienthal, took up the project again, but without being able to put it into effect. [1] The Most Rev. Father Oomen, Provincial of Holland (1874-1887) in his turn took some steps to bring it about. An American bishop, His Lordship Mons Gross, Redemptorist, first of all Bishop of Savannah and then Archbishop of Oregon, keenly encouraged this project. On the two visits he made to the Convent of Marienthal in 1876 and 1889, he expressed the desire to possess a monastery of Redemptoristines in his diocese. As a special reason for a foundation in the United States, he alleged, on his second visit, that his priests desired to see established in America an Order less austere than that of the Carmelites, and promised to find them vocations, for besides, this country was already sufficiently provided with active Orders.

The nuns of Marienthal did not let themselves be easily influenced by these reasons. The number of Sisters they had did not seem to them to be very considerable, and the idea of founding a convent in Germany was much more attractive to them, and then, North America seemed far away to them, and the enterprise a very difficult one! The reply was put to them that if their fervour had already permitted them to found the Convent of Ried in Austria (1852), that of Sambeek in Holland, to which they had given thirteen religious, and to furnish Superiors many times to other monasteries of the Order, the colonising genius of Holland was to reach a pinnacle this time by making them cross the Ocean. But their hopes for a foundation in Germany (many of their Sisters were from this country) suddenly came to life more urgently than ever, thanks to the encouragement and promises of the Coadjutor Bishop of Cologne, Mons A. Fischer. When he became the Cardinal-Archbishop of this seat, this prelate gave them reason to hope for the accomplishment of their desires in 1904, the jubilee year of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and which the canonisation of Saint Gerard Majella (11th December) was to make dear to them forever.

However, this year passed without the Cardinal being able to realise his plans. His great influence at court was sometimes blotted out by the clamour of the German Protestants, for the progress of Catholicism had made inroads against the heretical and impious movement of the Loss von Rom (Far from Rome)! He made the Sisters of Marienthal aware of his powerlessness and asked them for the meantime to look for a more suitable site.

These successive delays or set-backs were permitted by Providence so that they could realise a more grandiose plan, or rather, so that the original plan could finally be put into effect. It was indeed to America that God wished the Redemptoristines to go. The graces spread into the hearts of the Sisters by the Jubilee of Mary Immaculate and the canonisation of Saint Gerard, the disciple of the founder of their Order and in the past so devoted to their first Mothers, - these graces, we may say, prepared them unknowingly to bring it about after a period of waiting that lasted thirty years.

* * * * *

On Wednesday, 18th January in the year 1905, the Most Rev. Father Meeuwissen, the Provincial of the Redemptorist Fathers of Holland, was visiting his confreres in the Convent of Wittem. On this occasion he went to celebrate the holy Mass in the chapel of the Sisters of Marienthal, not far distant from the Fathers’ Convent. After his thanksgiving, the Sisters came to greet him at the grille of the parlour, and the Superior, Mother Marie-Hyacinthe, asked his advice on the subject of a new foundation. Their hearts were still turned towards the frontiers of Germany.

The Very Rev. Father Provincial replied immediately and without any premeditation: “Ah well, my Mother, go to America. I promise you I will accompany you there in person.”

Great was the stupefaction of the Sisters in hearing such an unexpected reply, but it had been made in such an assured tone, and it seemed to indicate the will of God so clearly that their hearts soon recovered from their surprise, and soon the voice of the Most Reverend Father General Raus put an end to the few hesitations that had been produced. A foundation in the United States for the meantime seemed to be exposed to too many difficulties, but the Most Reverend Father Rau cut through the difficulties. In the month of February he wrote the following lines to the Most Rev. Father Meeuwissen: “A land that I think will be more favourable to religious contemplatives would be Canada. A Bishop from this country spoke to me about it not long ago. I am sure that our Visitor, Father Lemieux, if you ask him to examine the project, will be able to give you some good information and help you to find a suitable place for it.” This advice was decisive in the history of the foundation. The divine Redeemer wanted the successor of Saint Alphonsus to decide on the execution of the project, and himself determine the choice of the country in the New World in which the daughters of Saint Alphonsus were to be established. Thus obedience itself presided at this great act.

The Most Rev. Father Meeuwissen wrote in consequence to Rev. Father Lemieux, the Visitor and Vice-Provincial of Canada. He replied with entire devotion to this advance and referred him on to Mons Begin, the Archbishop of Quebec, who placed no other condition on the establishment of the Sisters than the obligation not to go begging, of which there was of course no question. This goodness of the Archbishop merits even more gratitude, because the Province of Quebec already included a good number of contemplative communities. Father Lemieux proposed to establish the new monastery in proximity to the famous shrine of Sainte-Anne de Beaupré, served by the Redemptorists of the Belgian Province, and at the same time he invited the Father Provincial of Holland to come in person to Sainte-Anne with some Sisters from Marienthal, to arrange everything and be sure that it was all right. Two months later, on 19th August, the foundation of the first Monastery of the Redemptoristines in America was a fait accompli. Thus were realised the words of Rev. Father Lemieux: “Our glorious Father, Saint Alphonsus wishes his work in Canada to be complete; and it is without doubt a token of blessing for our Vice-Province.” Thus the wishes of the Most Rev. Father Raus were accomplished.

* * * * *

The Sisters chosen for the attempt at this great enterprise were: Sister Marie-Stanislas of the Blessed Sacrament in the position of Superior. She was from Aix-la-Chapelle and aged about fifty five. Then there was Sister Marie-Gabrielle of the Incarnation, from Amsterdam, aged thirty five. The Most Rev. Father Provincial was of the opinion that the Superior of Marienthal, Mother Marie-Hyacinthe of the Precious Blood, should join them in spite of being sixty three years old, in order to put her experience of affairs to the service of the new foundation. When the foundation was begun, she would return. Mons Drehmans, the Bishop of Roermond, and as such, the canonical Superior of Marienthal, willingly gave the necessary permissions. Finally, the Sovereign Pontiff, at the request of Very Rev. Father Oomen, the Procurator General of the Congregation, sent the Sisters his apostolic blessing.

* * * * *

Finally the 21st July arrived, the day of departure. It was the feast of Saint Alexis. The Introit to the Mass invited the founding Sisters to go forth from their native country and come into the place that God would show them: Egredere de terra tua et de domo patris tui, et veni in terram quam monstrabo tibi. Obliviscere populum tuum et domum patris tui, et concupiscent Rex decorem tuum. [Depart from thy land and from the house of thy father, and come into the land which I shall show you. Forget thy people and the house of thy father, and the King shall desire thy beauty]. All the rest of the Mass, the translation of which they took pains to give the travellers, applied in a very special and very touching manner to the departure of the Superior and the two other Sisters, and to the whole enterprise, and also the Epistle: Est quaestus magnus pietas cum sufficientia [But godliness with contentment is great gain] (1 Tim 6:6) – and the Gospel: Ecce nos reliquimus omnia [Behold we have left all things] (Matt. 19:27). Even the future return of Mother Marie-Hyacinthe found a mention in the Offertory: Revertere in terram tuam … et benefaciam tibi [Return to thy land … and I shall bless thee]. The Itinerarium was recited by the whole community before the open tabernacle, and then the Sisters took their travelling costume (brown habit with scapular and black mantles), and after farewells full of deep feelings, they left for Rotterdam, accompanied by Rev. Father Jansen, the confessor to the community. The train had to pass near Nijmegen, at Sambeek, the Monastery founded by Marienthal. The religious of Sambeek, the oldest ones of which had been the companions of the travellers, waved a great white sheet from the windows from afar off as a sign of joy, and sent some even more clear evidence of their feelings to the station. At Rotterdam, they went to the Convent of the Redemptorist Fathers, where the Very Rev. Provincial and the community received the foundresses with a very fraternal charity. In the evening, at about nine o’clock, two carriages conveyed them to the Potsdam, the greatest of the ships of the Holland-America Line. The following day, the anchor was weighed. It was on the Saturday in the octave of the Most Holy Redeemer, 22nd July, the fest of Saint Mary Magdalen, one of the patronesses of the Order, and the contemplative par excellence.

The crossing was a most happy one. The Most Rev. Father Provincial and the Sisters arrived at New York on Tuesday, 1st August, the vigil of the feast of the Founder and Father of the Order, Saint Alphonsus. The Redemptorist Fathers of New York received the travellers with all the refinements of charity. After the feast of Saint Alphonsus they continued their journey to Montreal, and after that, Rev. Father Lemieux accompanied them the following day to Quebec, to present them to Mons Begin. The worthy Archbishop received them with great kindness, and after he had received from the hands of Mother Marie-Hyacinthe a copy of the Rules and Constitutions in French, he favourably received the request they made, that the spiritual direction of the Sisters would be entrusted to the Redemptorist Fathers.

On 5th August, between the feast of Saint Dominic, one of the protectors of the Order, and the feast of the Transfiguration, the date on which the first Sisters had put on their holy habit in 1731, they arrived at the shrine of good Saint Anne, in the shadow of which they hoped to found their first home in which they would exercise their apostolate of love, prayer and suffering. It was still the time of the great pilgrimages. Thousands of strangers, brought there by their bishops and priests, crowded the feet of the miraculous statue. The new religious Order thus made itself known right away, and without wishing to do so, to great multitudes. The Bishop of Trois-Rivieres said, on this occasion, to the Dutch Provincial: “You have done a great work in bringing the Sisters here. It is prayer joined to action. It is a blessing for the missions. They will be the lightning conductors of America.”

The Sisters found a veritable father in the Rector of the Convent of Saint-Anne, Rev. Father Honore de Nys, and from the very beginning he put all his devotion and that of his confreres to the service of the new foundation. “Mother Marie-Hyacinthe,” says an account, “set herself at once to the work with her usual energy, diligence and experience. Aided by the good Fathers of Sainte-Anne, she soon had a charming little house which would serve as a Bethlehem for the first Sisters. A temporary chapel was arranged, what was strictly necessary was bought, and then the first Redemptoristines were established in Canada.”

On 19th August, the Most Rev. Father Provincial of Holland celebrated the holy Mass for the first time in the Sisters’ house. In a short homily he remarked on the points of resemblance of this house with the first Monastery of the Order at Scala, and exhorted the Sisters to the imitation of Jesus Christ, which is the spirit and essence of their holy Rules. Holy Communion, which the Sisters received, was like the divine seal on this very touching inauguration. A few days afterwards, on 21st August, the Archbishop of Quebec wrote the following letter to the future Superior, Reverend Mother Marie-Stanislas:

“My Reverend Mother,
“In these few last days I have received your letter of 14th of this month, in which you ask me for the authorisation to found a Monastery of the Redemptoristines at Sainte-Anne, in the Archdiocese of Quebec.

“The excellent Vice Provincial and Visitor of the Redemptorists, Rev. Father Lemieux, prepared the way for you by communicating your project of foundation to me before your arrival in America. He approved your plan and desired its realisation. The good Fathers of Sainte-Anne, who have worked with so much zeal and so much success in my diocese for many years, share his views. All that remains is for me to decide to accept your request, in spite of the great number of religious communities which I have had to welcome since the persecution broke out in France.

“Your admission has been rendered easier by the engagement you have undertaken of never being a charge to the diocese, and not going begging no matter for what, but to live solely on the dowries of your nuns.

“The life of prayer, contemplation and penance that you will live in your Monastery, in conformity with the Rules that your illustrious founder, Saint Alphonsus, drew up for you, will edify our people. It will turn the anger of God away from our heads, and it will attract the graces and blessings of heaven to the Archdiocese of Quebec.

“Be therefore welcome amongst us. Here you will enjoy the liberty of the children of God. You will not be strangers, but members of my great diocesan family, the flocks that will be ever more dear to me the more you distinguish yourselves by the holiness of your lives. I pray to God to extend His most precious blessings upon you, upon your Sisters and upon the wonderful work that you are about to undertake.

“Please receive, my Reverend Mother, this expression of my most devoted sentiments in Our Lord.

“† Louis Nazaire, Archbishop of Quebec.”

The plans for the new Monastery were approved by Mons Begin, and the work began right away. The land had been handed over by the Fathers of Sainte-Anne. It was a fairly extensive site, on the slopes of the hill that the Basilica of Sainte-Anne dominates, and it has a magnificent view over the St. Lawrence River, which is so majestic in its course. Even before their departure, it had been decided that the new convent, like that of Scala, would be dedicated to the Immaculate Virgin, and the church to Saint Gerard Majella.

* * * * *

Once the foundation was assured, they arranged everything at Marienthal for the departure of the six other Sisters who, with the first two, were to form the nucleus of the first community of the Order in the New World. The Sisters chosen were: Sister Marie-Therese of the Holy Spirit (50 yrs old); Sister Marie-Jeanne-Evangeliste of the Divine Love (40 yrs old); Sister Marie-Dominique of the Holy Rosary (44 yrs old); Sister Marie-Raphael of the Divine Providence (23 yrs old); Sister Marie-Madeleine of the Crucifix (25 yrs old), and lastly, Sister Felicia of Jesus and Mary, a converse (30 yrs old).

Friday, 29th September 1905, the feast of the Archangel Saint Michael, one of the Patrons of the Order, was fixed for the departure. They celebrated the holy Mass very early. Rev. Father Jansen, the ordinary confessor, who was to accompany the Sisters to America in accordance with the wishes of the Most Rev. Father General, gave the Sisters a special homily for the occasion, and then, once the Itinerarium was recited, the benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was given. A very special benediction from our Holy Father the Pope, Pius X, written in his own hand, came to give the travellers the last pledge of heavenly favours, and the Sisters said farewell to their dear companions at Wittem.

Like the first journey, they were received at Rotterdam with the most cordial charity. At nine o’clock in the evening, they embarked on the same steamship that had taken those before them, and had it not been for their black mantles, we would have seen them, on this little moving town of the Potsdam, in their complete Redemptoristine costume that they brought from the convent. It was thus a curious spectacle for the 2500 passengers to see a whole religious community, attended by their Chaplain, applying themselves to their exercises. Respect towards them was general. Sympathies were numerous and many prejudices fell before their frank and sincere piety, their great degree of cordiality and the charitable courtesy that distinguished these travellers.

Moreover, they observed the Rule of the convent as far as possible. Every morning, the Father who accompanied them celebrated the holy Mass in a cabin. The nuns took Communion, and many persons, including the missionary nuns from the Convent of Steyl in Holland, profited from the same happiness. On the Sundays of 1st and 8th October, the holy Mass was celebrated at ten o’clock in the great hall of the second class, which included a good number of Catholics. Sometimes too, in their cabins, Father addressed to them a short instruction appropriate to the feast of the day, or the circumstances of the times.

After a fairly calm crossing, the Sisters arrived at New York on Monday, 9th October, towards evening. Rev. Father Speydel, Rector of the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer, and Rev. Father Englet, received them with the greatest cordiality and brought them by carriage to the Franciscan Sisters, with whom they stayed and rested all the following day. On the Wednesday they left for Montreal, where the Most Rev. Father Lemieux received them, and the next day at about four o’clock, they were brought into the venerable sanctuary of Sainte-Anne de Beaupré. There they kneeled down and prayed fervently to the divine Redeemer, the Immaculate Virgin and good Saint Anne. Some moments later, Reverend Mother Marie-Hyacinthe and the two Sisters Marie-Stanislas and Marie-Gabriel entered by a side door, and while the organ made the place reverberate with its sweetest harmonies, the church was suddenly lit up with electricity as on the great feast days, and the two groups of religious embraced each other silently under the eyes of Saint Anne.

It is useless to tell of the joy and gratitude which flowed from the hearts of the daughters of Saint Alphonsus. Soon they were seated at the table of hospitality to which the Rev. Father Rector of the Convent had invited them. The Fathers and Brothers made it their duty to give their best welcome to their Sisters in religion. Finally, when they were brought to their little provisional convent, the nuns found all the lamps lit up in the modest sanctuary, the greeting of the Blessed Sacrament was sung, and Rev. Father Allard, in a touching homily, gave his welcome to the Sisters whom the Most Holy Redeemer had just brought together to work for the salvation of souls.

The mission of the Reverend Mother Marie-Hyacinthe had now been achieved. When she had left Marienthal, the worthy Bishop of Roermond, Mons Drehmans, told her: “And you, my Mother, when you have accomplished your task, you will return to us, as you are necessary for this house.” On 16th October, the feast of Saint Gerard and the first day of the solemn Triduum of the canonisation of the great miracle-worker, she took the road to Quebec, after attending the first solemnities. On 18th October she left New York on the same Potsdam that had brought her. On Saturday evening, 28th October, she arrived back at Marienthal. We can well imagine that she was received with open arms. “We were proud of our Mother,” wrote one of the Sisters in the convent, “because she had let herself be led like a child through obedience and the divine Providence, and God blessed her devotion. She took her rest only very late that night, and the following day at four o’clock, she was in choir with us to recite Matins.” [2]

On the third day of the Triduum of Saint Gerard, Mons the Archbishop of Quebec officiated pontifically at Sainte-Anne. He then visited the provisional convent of the Sisters and conversed paternally with them, and confirmed the election of Reverend Mother Marie-Stanislas as Superior for three years.

The building of the new Monastery advanced rapidly. On 8th December 1906, the Sisters took solemn possession of their permanent home. On the same day, through a delicate attention of Providence, the first American postulant presented herself to the Monastery. Thus the favours of heaven were united to the favours of the first Pastor of the diocese, the unanimous voices of the faithful, and the apostolic desires of the daughters of Saint Alphonsus. May the holy Doctor extend his greatest blessings over a Monastery that will be, we do not doubt, the faithful heiress of his spirit and his apostolic zeal.

[1] His Life has been translated from Dutch into French: Vie du Rév. P. Bernard, priest of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer and doctor of theology, by Mons M. J. A. Lans (1 vol. in 8o. Casterman, Paris-Tournai).
[2] This venerable religious was soon to go to receive the reward for her numerous works. Struck down by apoplexy on Friday, 10th May 1907, she died later on the Saturday at about 10.30 in the evening. Here is the notice that was communicated to us concerning this worthy daughter of Saint Alphonsus. “Sister Marie-Hyacinthe was born at Montjoie in 1842. Right up to her last days, in recreation she would happily recall the rustic and innocent joys that she had enjoyed in that beautiful countryside. Later on, her father, Mr. Pascal Massion went to live at Aix-la-Chapelle, where he was the proprietor of a large factory. He gave his daughters a distinguished education and a very Christian one especially. Adele, his oldest daughter, was soon capable of helping her mother with the cares of the household. Rev. Father Heilig, the Rector of the Convent of Saint Alphonsus at Aix, soon recognized a religious vocation in her, and after testing her out thoroughly, he had her enter Marienthal (1865). Right from her entry, she showed a great fervour and a serious desire for perfection. Her nature pushed her rather towards austerity, and she had to combat a certain impetuosity in order to become meek and good. She had an aptitude for everything, and was named Housekeeper after the fire of 1877, which was no small thing. The heavy burden of Superior was laid upon her on several occasions. Endowed with the most beautiful qualities of heart, spirit and many talents, with an exquisite taste for the arts, as well as being very capable in business matters, she was well able to give good advice to her daughters in all things. She also devoted herself entirely, and was always found ready to render service. All her life she showed herself as zealous for the exact and painstaking observance of the Rule, and when anything was lacking she showed herself inflexible. Her motto in practice was: “Duty before all, duty always.” Her greatest pleasure was to work for the ornamentation of the altar. She had an extraordinary skill, and our sacristy is rich in the works of her hands – so many souvenirs that are so precious to us. Her last trienniat was greatly disturbed by the foundation in Canada and her great journey, but in the greatest difficulties she never lost her courage and confidence in God. Our revered Mother made a good impression everywhere by her dignity and religious simplicity. She said: “In all these events I have let myself be led by Providence like a child.” “When she returned to Marienthal, where she continued her life hidden in Jesus Christ, whom she cherished above everything else, she helped the Sisters in America with all her power. But soon her task was finished, and she fell in the line of duty. Until her short illness she followed the common life in spite of her infirmities, which she bore in silence and with a great deal of courage. She still went on serving every week at table and washed the dishes, observed the fasts and abstinences, and gave herself the discipline with the others, etc. Finally, she was always our valiant Mother, who through her examples and her exhortations excited her daughters to virtue. Struck down by a mild attack on 29th April while coming to recreation that evening, she told Mother Vicar: “If I have to die of this, I shall yet be happy”, but she did not believe, however, that she was as ill as she was, and after a few days she wanted to get up very early for Holy Communion and the holy Mass, which she did until Friday, 10th May, when an attack of apoplexy in her brain threw her upon her bed, and soon made an end of her days. She lay unconscious, without a look of farewell, after Extreme Unction was administered, until Saturday evening about 10.30. Then the Blessed Virgin came to seek her faithful servant to bring her into the arms of her divine Spouse, who, we hope, would have given her the fine crown that she merited so well by a life of abnegation and fidelity to the Rule of Saint Alphonsus. It is the consolation of our community in mourning that she will not forget us in heaven.”

This necrology is translated from Fleurs de l'Institut des Rédemptoristines by Mr John R. Bradbury. The copyright of this translation is the property of the Redemptoristine Nuns of Maitland, Australia. The integral version of the translated book will be posted here as the necrologies appear.

The Foundation of Maffles

The Monastery of the Sacred Heart at Maffles draws its origin from Saint-Amand. On 18th September 1899, two religious, one of whom was Reverend Mother Marie-Alphonse, left the convent of the Holy Family to come and found a new house of the Order at Maffles. They were soon joined by a third Sister, and they saw vocations flood into the provisional house that they occupied at 122, rue Seche. Their numbers increased rapidly when persecution chased them from their home. After 28th September 1901, to avoid any trouble to their proprietors, they left Armentieres and installed themselves at Maffles, a little village in Hainault, a few kilometres from Ath. Reverend Mother Marie-Alphonse, three religious, a novice and eight postulants then formed the community, whose number has increased now to twenty four. Through the manifest protection of the Sacred Heart, exile has not hindered the rapid extension of this nascent house, but obtained for it the blessing of complete destitution. Living from day today, entirely abandoned to a Providence which has never failed them, these daughters of Saint Alphonsus are making every effort to attract the divine mercy upon their country, by imitating the hidden virtues of the Most Holy Redeemer. May their prayers hasten the conversion of France, and obtain the return of the numerous religious that it has chased from its territory!

This necrology is translated from Fleurs de l'Institut des Rédemptoristines by Mr John R. Bradbury. The copyright of this translation is the property of the Redemptoristine Nuns of Maitland, Australia. The integral version of the translated book will be posted here as the necrologies appear.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Foundation of Madrid

For several years the Redemptorist Fathers in Spain desired to establish a Monastery of Redemptoristines in this kingdom, but several requests made to the Monastery of Saint Amand (Nord) were unfruitful and they were forced to wait for the hour of Providence. In 1904, when Spain was in negotiation with Rome for the arrangement of a concordat on the subject of the religious question, the Most Rev. Father Runner, the Provincial, judged the moment propitious, seeing that in this concordat the existing religious Orders were by this very fact approved by the government, and so he made new requests to the Monastery of Grenoble (Isere), but he obtained only a refusal.

After he turned to the Monastery of Kain in Belgium, the community granted the foundation on the condition of obtaining a Superior from the Monastery of Grenoble. After many difficulties it consented, forced, we might say, by our good God, to give the religious requested.

This religious left to see if, following the offer by our Fathers in Grenada, their convent, which they were obliged to leave in order to take up possession of another church, would be suitable for the foundation, but as neither the Monastery nor the location turned out to be suitable for contemplative religious, she went back to Madrid where, against all hope, His Excellency, Mons the Bishop of this city joyfully gave his authorisation for an establishment in his diocese, on 15th May, the feast of Saint Isidore, the patron of the city of Madrid. The will of God having thus been manifested, it was there that we were called to establish ourselves, and it was there that the religious of Kain came to join their Superior, who had received a hospitality as cordial as it was fraternal, among the nuns of the Sacred Heart.

They began by renting a villa at the edge of the city, but the location was not a suitable one, and Rev. Father Runner, after much deliberation, advised them to say a novena to Saint Alphonsus, in order to find a suitable house and land. On the eighth day of this novena, a lady came to offer them a house and garden situated at Carabanchel Alto, near Madrid. His Reverence went out to the place and was able to say that it was truly the reply of their good Father. Full of gratitude, he announced the good news to the Mothers who joined with him in thanking their holy founder.

A remarkable thing – with a magnificent site, complete solitude, a superb view and very pure air, this house possessed a lovely little chapel. On the frontispiece of the door there was a medallion of the Sacred Heart similar to the one the nuns wear on their breast, and on the roof there was a great iron cross.

Being thus directed there by Providence, the little community took possession of this house on 1st September. The following 27th April, after dedicating the Monastery to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, they established the enclosure, into which six Spanish postulants entered.

With the aid and the constant and disinterested devotion of our Fathers and Brothers, we began the construction of the Monastery on 16th September of this year 1905.

May divine Providence permit its prompt completion, so that we, like our first Mothers at Scala, shall be allowed to enjoy the inappreciable advantages of solemn vows authorised in Spain.

Sister Marie-Philomene, Redemptoristine.

This necrology is translated from Fleurs de l'Institut des Rédemptoristines by Mr John R. Bradbury. The copyright of this translation is the property of the Redemptoristine Nuns of Maitland, Australia. The integral version of the translated book will be posted here as the necrologies appear.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

The Foundation of Lauterach near Bregenz (Austria)

“Our foundation,” Reverend Mother Marie-Rose of the Child Jesus wrote to us on 3rd May 1906, “is under the patronage of Saint Joseph. Of all our houses, this is the only one that bears this blessed name.”

“For several years, our Monastery in Vienna desired to make a foundation, and Salzburg was proposed. The Cardinal Archbishop, Mons Haller, offered the Sisters a little church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist, but the buildings were not suitable, and we had to refuse them. In the meantime, the Cardinal died. The Sisters designated for the new foundation left Vienna on 19th April 1900. A remarkable thing – from this time on, it was always a Wednesday or the 19th March or the 19th of another month that Saint Joseph granted our convent some particular grace.

“However, the new foundation was not to be made without difficulties of every kind. Our poverty was great, and to crown it all, there was no chapel where we could put the Blessed Sacrament, because of the small number of the Sisters. From 19th April to the feast of the Most Holy Redeemer, we had to go to Mass with the Reverend Fathers Missionary at Liefering, a quarter of an hour away from the convent, and receive the sacrament of penance in the town. Not possessing Our Lord amongst us was a subject of inexpressible grief to us. Finally Mons Kaltner, the Vicar General of Salzburg (today the Bishop) put himself to every possible trouble to obtain for us the grace of having the Sanctissimum in our little house. Several Sisters from Vienna arrived the night preceding the third Sunday of July. It was another Christmas night for us. We worked almost all night to prepare our little chapel, where Jesus, our love and our all, was to descend for the first time. Mons Kaltner blessed the chapel, and before giving us Holy Communion, he gave us a short sermon full of unction and piety. It was a day of graces and also a day of indescribable joy, although we had not yet been permitted to wear the habit of our Order, and all we had were just black vestments and black veils.

* * * * *

“We had to remain like this until the nomination of the new Archbishop, Mons Katschthaler, to the seat of Salzburg. Finally this great grace reached us at the very moment we were to begin our first retreat. An hour beforehand, the hand that had blessed our chapel also blessed our enclosure. What a joy it was for us then, on Christmas night, to renew our holy vows! In our little chapel, a true Bethlehem because of its poverty, a solemn Te Deum burst out in thanksgiving, for the first retreat preached in the little Monastery of Saint Joseph! What a joy it was also for Rev. Father Dilgskron, our confessor in Vienna, who had preached our holy exercises!

“”The cross,” I told him, “is not lacking in this foundation, but divine Providence is watching over its children. When we were at the point of having to leave everything because of our poverty, an unexpected help came to save us, and to great cares, great joy succeeded.

“However, a more serious reason than the lack of resources finally decided us to look elsewhere. The lack of spiritual help was all to evident, and so we prayed to find a new refuge which could provide us with what Saint Jeanne Francoise de Chantal sought before everything else for her foundations – the assurance of spiritual help. After many prayers, vigils and fasts, we learnt that a boarding house formerly run by the Dominican Sisters was vacant at Lauterach. It was the Reverend Father Rector of Dornbirn (Vorarlberg) who gave us this good news. On 19th April 1904, some of the Sisters went there with the counsellor of His Eminence the Cardinal of Salzburg, and at the first Vespers of the feast of the patronage of Saint Joseph, the contract for the purchase of the Dominican convent was signed, on the condition that our Superiors in Vienna gave their consent. On 2nd August, the feast of our Father, Saint Alphonsus, the daughters of this great Saint took possession of the Monastery of the daughters of Saint Dominic, and on 19th November, I arrived at Lauterach with the first group of my dear Sisters to remain there permanently.

“We now had a beautiful little church, some cells, and a cemetery at the bottom of the garden. The Redemptorist Fathers are our confessors. Our Chaplain, an excellent priest, helps us with everything by his advice and his talents. Having been on mission in Africa for the space of a dozen years, there is hardly any subject he does not know something about.

* * * * *

“A few words now about our three dear deceased Sisters.

“Sister Marie-Celestine came from Vienna with Sister Marie-Francoise and Sister Marie-Michel on the vigil of the feast of the Most holy Redeemer, to make up the number of Sisters required by the Archbishop of Salzburg, and to thus ensure us the happiness of possessing the Blessed Sacrament.

“She was a very fervent Sister who observed the Rule to the letter, but her health had been weakened long ago. We noticed one day that her spirit had weakened in its turn. She was suffering a great deal, and she was an enigma for us. Sometimes she felt so feeble that she would go and ask the Superior for some dispensation or some relief. A quarter of an hour afterwards, she wanted to know nothing about it and tried to observe the Rule in all its rigour. She continued thus until 24th October 1902. On that day she made her monthly retreat. On Saturday, the 25th, she could not get out of bed, and as the doctor told me that she could die any day quite unexpectedly, I told her all this. “That’s nothing,” she replied, “We all have to die.” On Sunday, the 26th, I was next to her right up to the moment of Holy Communion, and when I left her, she told me urgently: “My Reverend Mother, I thank you for everything you have done for me.” I did not for a moment think that she would die so soon, and I then went to see our good Sister Marie-Gerard, who had been ill for months and was suffering horribly. At 9 o’clock, I was called in all haste. Sister Marie-Celestine had just died! She had been struck by apoplexy in her heart and brain. On her death-bed, she still had the smiling face she had during her life. She was only thirty two years of age. We remember her as a good and charitable Sister, ardent for her perfection and zealous for observance. She had recommended her death to the Good Thief. – It was a very hard thing for us to leave her body in Salzburg. We have erected a modest monument to her in our little cemetery, and also to our dear Sister Marie-Francoise.

“This Sister died in our Monastery of Vienna on 13th February 1906. She was very young too. She was our companion at Salzburg for more than three years, and edified us greatly by her virtue, her spirit of prayer and her filial obedience. A stomach complaint was what had her recalled to Vienna. They soon discovered that it was a cancer. She suffered a great deal and had to undergo several operations. The doctors were edified by her patience. She suffered like this for more than two years, but we always saw her happy and resigned to the holy will of God and very attached to the Rule. She always had the desire to see her God, and she applied herself greatly to the interior life. And her death was that of a saint.

“Some words too about our dear Sister Marie-Alphonse, who died at the age of twenty six. The poor child had lost her parents, and for fifteen years she was left alone with her little sister. The blow was a terrible one. But divine Providence watched over this pure soul and brought her to our foundation. The weakness of our good Sister’s health soon became evident, and with it her unalterable patience. She had a placid soul of an angelic purity, and indeed she was not made for this world. The cough that wasted her away soon brought her to an extremity, but she was quite happy to die. After having received Extreme Unction, she radiated joy at the thought of going to see Jesus and Mary in heaven, and when I spoke to her about it, she laughed with all her heart, and was not able to contain the happiness that flooded her. Her long sufferings had altered her features, but after her death they took on a quite heavenly serenity.

“In the boarding house, we always called her an angel of peace. Now she rests in our little cemetery as the first Redemptoristine there and is the standard bearer for the Convent of Saint Joseph at Lauterach. An angel of peace and purity during her life, she will always be so in our memories.”

This necrology is translated from Fleurs de l'Institut des Rédemptoristines by Mr John R. Bradbury. The copyright of this translation is the property of the Redemptoristine Nuns of Maitland, Australia. The integral version of the translated book will be posted here as the necrologies appear.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Foundation of Clapham (London)

Reverend Mother Marie-Gertrude of the Incarnation, who had succeeded Mother Marie-Jeanne de la Croix in the direction of the Monastery of Dublin, was destined by God to bring a project of foundation in England to a good end.

Having submitted her project to the Most Reverend Father Raus, the Rector Major of the Redemptorist Fathers, to the Cardinal Archbishop of Dublin, and to Mons Bourne, then the Bishop of Southwark, [1] she had the joy of receiving a favourable response from all of them. Rev. Father Bridgett was enchanted to learn that the Monastery whose foundation he had always ardently desired, was finally to be established.

It was ruled by the Diocesan authority that the foundation would take place at Clapham, in the very parish served by the Redemptorist Fathers. All the necessary permissions were granted, and then Father Stevens, the Rector of the house at Clapham, took possession of the house at Rectory-Grove in the name of Reverend Mother Marie-Gertrude, and placed in it the pictures of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and Saint Alphonsus. This was on 23rd January 1897. On the following 7th May, Reverend Mother was elected Superior of the new foundation by the community of Dublin, assembled in chapter. The same evening, she left for London, accompanied by Sister Marie-Alphonsine. The last arrangements were made to give the house at Rectory Grove a truly conventual appearance, and Rev. Father Vaughan, the Provincial of the Redemptorist Fathers, ruled everything concerning spiritual help.

On 28th May, Mother Marie-Gertrude returned to Dublin for several days and resigned her superiority into the hands of the Archbishop. He greatly praised the charity, prudence and all the virtues which had shone there so brightly during her government, and then the Reverend Mother prepared herself to say farewell to her dear daughters in Dublin and take in hand the new charge that had been confided to her. Her departure then took place on 4th July. That morning the Archbishop was kind enough to celebrate the holy Mass in the Monastery, and once again bless and encourage Reverend Mother and the Sisters who were to accompany her. For everyone the separation was the occasion of a great sacrifice, but every pain faded away before the great thought that the Sisters about to depart for England were soon to commence their work of prayer and reparation in the very place where their divine Spouse had been so outraged, and where the fruits of His abundant Redemption were still being denied to so many souls through heresy and cold indifference.

* * * * *

On 18th July, the feast of the Most Holy Redeemer, the holy red and blue habit of the Redemptoristines was brought into the pretty and devout church of iron, which had been blessed the day before by the Very Rev. Father Vaughan. At seven o’clock in the morning, the holy Mass was celebrated there for the first time by the venerable Father Provincial, and Our Lord was placed in His new tabernacle, the gift of the dear community of Bruges. The convent was thus to undergo a complete transformation, sanctified as it was by the presence of the divine Host that was now to be the object of the love of every heart. The ceremony of installation took place at four o’clock in the afternoon. The Most Rev. Father Vaughan preached a fine sermon on the contemplative life, and then Rev. Father Stevens intoned a solemn greeting. The service was well attended by the relatives and friends of the Sisters and a sympathetic crowd who afterwards visited the Monastery.

On Tuesday 20th, at the meeting of the ladies of the Archconfraternity of the Holy Family, Rev. Father Stevens in his turn preached in eloquent terms about the contemplative life, and invited all those attending the meeting to go and see the Sisters. On 21st, the vigil of the feast of Saint Mary Magdalen, Vespers were chanted in choir, and they began the public recitation of the Divine Office, to the great joy of the religious.

Finally on Sunday, 25th July, the ceremony of the establishment of the enclosure took place. His Lordship Mons Bourne arrived a little before four o’clock. The church was already full. It was the Rev. Father Bridgett who preached his admirable sermon on the contemplative life. We shall quote only the conclusion.

“It is now thirty-eight years since the monastery was established in Dublin of which this house at Clapham is an offshoot. It has been with us a long cherished wish to see a community of these zealous and holy sisters in England, and I thank God that I have lived to see it begun. May He grant this house a long and prosperous life. May it quickly grow in numbers, as well as in fervour and in the abundance of God’s gifts, and may it send out, in God’s good time, its daughters to other parts of the kingdom and of the empire.

“Our hopes for the return of England to the unity of the Church are greatly based on the number of communities of fervent nuns everywhere engaged in prayer and works of mercy. Several houses of nuns devoted to a contemplative life have been long established in England – Bridgettines, Benedictines, Poor Clares, Carmelites, Augustinians, Trappestines, and others, varying in austerity and divers points of religious discipline, but rivalling with each other in the service and love of God. Yet there is room and work for the daughters of St. Alphonsus. They will be welcomed from heaven by the Hildas, the Ediths, Eadburgas, and Ethelredas, who were the glories of the contemplative life in the England of earlier days; and on earth they will also receive a cordial welcome from those who have preceded them, whether in the contemplative or active life.

“May our dear Immaculate Mother, to whom this diocese of Southward is specially dedicated, set firmly this foundation as a gem in her ancient Dowry. [2]

* * * * *

“After the sermon,” says an eye-witness, “Mons the Bishop, followed by the clergy and the crowd, entered the Church by the side entrance, and the procession was formed. His Lordship had manifested the desire for Reverend Mother to go first and indicate the route to be followed. Then the bishop and the priests and the other Sisters proceeded out, singing the Miserere. Next came the ladies.

“After the Bishop had gone through the whole convent, sprinkling each room with holy water, he stopped at the door of the enclosure, waiting for the end of the procession.

“When everyone had come out, His Lordship closed the door and spoke with great goodness to our dear Reverend Mother and the Sisters. He said that he welcomed them very cordially into his diocese, that he would do everything he could to help the community, and that Reverend Mother had only to seek His Lordship whenever she was in need, because he would always want to show the Sisters the same care and attention that Saint Alphonsus himself would have shown them. His Lordship also said that as at this moment they were the only religious contemplatives in this part of London, he would rely on them in a very special manner.”

[1] Today the Archbishop of Westminster.
[2] Allusion to the beautiful work by Rev. Father Bridgett called: England, the Dowry of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

This necrology is translated from Fleurs de l'Institut des Rédemptoristines by Mr John R. Bradbury. The copyright of this translation is the property of the Redemptoristine Nuns of Maitland, Australia. The integral version of the translated book will be posted here as the necrologies appear.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

The Foundation of Gagny-Namur

The Religious of the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer came from Austria to Belgium in 1841, but only installed themselves in France in 1875. In 1890, they still only possessed two houses there: one at Saint-Amand in the North, and the other at Grenoble in Central France. However, numerous aspirants to the life of our holy Order urged the Redemptorist Fathers to facilitate the means for them to become daughters of Saint Alphonsus, through the foundation of a new community, at Paris or in its suburbs. In 1890, the Reverend Fathers made frequent requests to the Mother Superior of Grenoble to send forth a swarm of her religious. The parents of several of Sisters from Paris joined with them, and to this effect the Reverend Mother asked the opinion of Mons Fava, the Bishop of Grenoble, the Most Rev. Father Raus, the General of the Redemptorists, and Rev. Father Gavillet, the Provincial. They were all in support of the realisation of the wishes so frequently expressed and the reiterated requests. Divine Providence seemed to encourage the project of foundation by permitting Madame Hello, the mother of our dear Sister Marie-Aloyse, to spontaneously offer a sum large enough to cover the first expenses. Believing they saw in all this a new expression of the divine will, they accepted the foundation. On 16th June 1893, Reverend Mother Marie-Augustine of the divine Providence set off en route for the capital, in order to seek out in the suburbs of Paris a site that could shelter the little colony. After having visited a number of localities, she stopped at Gagny (Seine et Oise), a little town in the Diocese of Versailles. Mons Goux, then the Bishop, accepted the request for admission made by Mons Fava himself, and on 3rd August of the same year, Reverend Mother Marie-Augustine and several religious from the Convent of Grenoble came to take possession of the new nest prepared by divine Providence. First of all they stayed in Gagny itself, and then several months later they were able to transfer the community into a more spacious and better situated house in the suburbs of Gagny.

Many vocations presented themselves, and everything presaged happy beginnings, but following malevolence on the one hand, and imprudence on the other, in less than two years the foundation was about to founder following some exceptional trials. But God, who had willed its existence, brought it out of these unfortunate circumstances. The vocations became numerous and after ten years the community already numbered thirty members. Then came the wicked law of 1901, against religious Congregations. The communities emigrated en masse, and that of the Redemptoristines of Gagny decided to find shelter where they could take refuge during the torment that was coming. Mons Heylen, the Bishop of Namur, agreed to receive them into his episcopal city, so they went there in the month of May 1903. His Lordship ameliorated the sacrifice of the exiles by surrounding them with a truly paternal solicitude, and our good God blessed their fidelity by sending them some new companions. Praise and thanksgiving to J. M. J. A.

This necrology is translated from Fleurs de l'Institut des Rédemptoristines by Mr John R. Bradbury. The copyright of this translation is the property of the Redemptoristine Nuns of Maitland, Australia. The integral version of the translated book will be posted here as the necrologies appear.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Foundation of Grenoble

God, whose plans are hidden and whose ways to attain them are admirable, wishing to extend our holy Order, for this purpose made use of the mediation of Mons Fava, the Bishop of Grenoble, and Madame the Marquise of Murinais. This last had a sister in the Monastery of Malines (Belgium), whose health was very precarious. As she was little accustomed to the cold climate of the North, Madame the Marquise believed that by bringing her back to where she was born, she could recover her lost health.

She expressed her intentions to Mons Fava, who at first postponed the project. Madame the Marquise did not insist for the moment, but returned prudently to the matter from time to time. A year or two passed in this dilemma, and then Mons the Bishop, on his own initiative, said to Madame de Murinais: “This is now the moment when we can call in the Redemptoristines.”

His Lordship wrote to His Eminence, Cardinal Dechamps, the Archbishop of Malines, to ask him for a small group. The Community of Malines had just made a foundation at Saint-Amand-les-Eaux. It was now poor in subjects, and also, most of the Sisters were unwell, indisposed or invalids. So His Eminence sent this reply: “I suggest having Mother Marie-Veronique of Jesus as Superior, but her health is very poor. Her companion, Sister Marie-Rumoldine is scarcely more robust. If only you could give me a subject with solid good health, capable of keeping strict observance and being a model of regularity … I would straight away give my approval.” Mother Marie-Veronique then approached the Monastery of Bruges to obtain some help. Two religious came forward and offered themselves spontaneously for the accomplishment of this work. The foundation was thus decided and five Sisters got ready to leave. They were the Reverend Mother Marie-Veronique, the Superior; Sister Marie-Rose from Malines, Sister Marie-Gonzaga and Sister Marie-Veronica of the Will of God, from Bruges. And lastly there was Sister Marie-Rumoldine from Malines. The departure took place in the middle of the month of June 1878, and as there was no house prepared for them, they stayed for three weeks with Madame the Marquise de Murinais, who received the travellers with the affection, devotion and respect that she bore for the brides of Jesus-Christ. Having found a furnished villa at La Tronche called Jermoloof, after the Russian general to whom it belonged, the Sisters rented it for a year.

This villa was perfectly situated. They could breathe air that was favourable to feeble lungs, and so they hoped for an improvement in the health of Mother Marie-Veronique. During this time, a pious person, devoted to the community, was looking for a site that would be suitable for the construction of a Monastery. After many unfruitful applications, Miss Dastarac, that was her name, found a modest house near the little seminary at Rondeau. This house was surrounded by two hectares of land. With the approval of Mons the Bishop, they bought it all, and they added a modest construction to it that could at least shelter the Sisters who had already arrived, and the postulants who had joined them. They also built the walls of the enclosure. The Sisters moved there in September 1879. Madame the Marquise de Murinais, wishing to fulfil her role as foundress, provided all the furnishings of the chapel and the house. Thereafter she always continued to devote her self with a perfect disinterest, an incomparable affection and a grandeur of soul equal to her nobility. In addition, she profited from her closeness to the General of the Chartreuses in order to obtain his protection over the nascent Community; and we may say in passing, that it was thanks to her intervention and that of Mons Fava, that the Reverend Fathers never ceased to aid the community. Mons Fava, for his part, showed a quite paternal benevolence towards it. Another very precious auxiliary was Reverend Father Prouvost, who, in all circumstances, showed himself as a devoted friend and good counsellor.

The cross, with which God ordinarily marks His works, did not delay in appearing in the midst of the new foundation. Reverend Mother Marie-Veronique, whose complexion was already so delicate, was attacked by pneumonia, which, in a few days, brought her to the gates of the tomb. This extremity threw the little religious family into a great sadness. Reverend Mother herself, considering the distressing situation in which she was leaving her dear daughters, found it hard to believe that God wanted to call her to Himself at this hour: nonetheless, she accepted His holy will, and made the sacrifice of her life. Two days had scarcely passed away when her soul flew off to her eternal home, on 30th December 1879.

Mother Marie-Veronique of Jesus was born at Maestricht on 2nd July 1821, of a distinguished family. She was only 18 years old when she entered religion. She was an elect soul and God was pleased to fill her with His most intimate favours, and as a friend of contemplation He attached her firmly to Himself. For her part, she gave herself to this call by her flight from exterior faults and her great application to God. She successively filled the most important charges and succeeded Reverend Mother Marie-Alphonse, who had transplanted the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer, and the Reverend Father Passerat held her in great esteem. When thoughts were tending towards a foundation in France, she devoted herself to it wholeheartedly and departed generously, in spite of her feeble health, even though she had to expect the privations and cares which are ordinarily the lot of new foundations, but hoping to procure the glory of God and attract new brides to Jesus-Christ, she sailed over all these particular considerations. Madame the Marquise de Murinais, who was in a position to appreciate her first-hand, had a true veneration for her, and her death filled her with a profound sadness and inexpressible regrets.

Forced now to replace the Reverend Mother Foundress, Mons Fava, who knew the community of Saint-Amand, thought it best to address himself to them to this effect. The choice fell on Reverend Sister Marie-Augustine of the Divine Providence, then the Mistress of Educandes, whom God had endowed with the qualities required for the position of Superior. She had already devoted herself to the foundation of Velp (in Holland) and Saint-Amand, and did not recoil from the new burden that was presented to her, having to heart the glory of God and the prosperity of our holy Order. She left Saint-Amand on 1st February, and was presented by Mons Fava himself to the Sisters of Grenoble on 2nd February 1880. The Sisters welcomed her gratefully, and rendered their obedience to her very readily.

They continued to organise the provisional house and the holy Rule was put into vigour. As the community was very poor, Father Demenjon, the housekeeper of the little seminary at Rondeau, had the kindness to come there and say the holy Mass every day. Moreover, he provided them with stores and other food items at the same price as for the seminary. Monsignor had given him a general permission to enter the enclosure to help the Superior in the organisation of the garden, and finally he made him the Chaplain of the convent to the satisfaction of all the Sisters, a function which he fulfilled with zeal, and a devotion that could not be more paternal right up to his death, which happened on 12th November 1905.

In 1880 appeared the decree for the expulsion of religious communities. Several Belgian Sisters, fearing trouble, demanded and obtained permission to go back to their own country, and this was granted to them.

When calm returned to the country, numerous vocations were announced, and the house became too cramped, so they had to think of building a new Monastery and building a wing to it at the same time, because of the need they were now feeling.

The priest of our parish, Canon Berlioux, who was interested in what we were doing, but was busy himself in building a church and some schools, introduced his architect and builder with whom he was very satisfied. They were accepted, and we can only praise their ability and devotion. The architect, in his modesty, asked for a preparatory plan to be drawn up, which he followed, but subordinated it to his art, and this contributed to making a model convent of these constructions. In 1883, they laid the general foundations of the Monastery and the church, and in the Spring of 1884, Mons Fava came to solemnly lay the first stone. Reverend Mother Marie-Augustine was powerfully supported, in the supervision of the works and the choice of material, by her sister, the Mother Vicar, Sister Marie-Veronica of the Will of God. This dear Sister, who was greatly weakened by the numerous illnesses she had suffered, and by her additional labours, felt her powers exhausted and finally had to go to bed, succumbing to an internal malady that threatened her for a long time. The last sacraments were administered to her, and she received them with faith and resignation. Mons Fava came to visit her on the eve of her death and asked her: “Do you really want to do the will of God?” And she replied: “Yes, Monsignor, on earth as in heaven.” The good Mother Vicar was dying in full consciousness with the sorrow of leaving her dear Sister in the midst of so many different worries, but the encouragement to place all her confidence in the divine Providence and in Our Lady of Perpetual Succour gave her the assurance that she would always receive aid and assistance from her.

Sister Marie-Veronica of the Will of God was born at Nivelle, Nord, and she was of God from her very first years, and spent her youth in serious piety. She helped her good mother bring up her young brothers and sisters. When she believed she was able to leave the paternal home, she entered the Monastery of the Redemptoristines at Bruges, where later on she had the consolation of seeing her younger sister Philomena (Sister Marie-Augustine) come to join her. Eighteen months later, this last was sent from Bruges to the new foundation at Velp, where she spent thirteen years, and in 1880, God reunited the two sisters at Grenoble until the hour when death separated them again, while they waited for the happy day of eternal beatitude.

After the death of Sister Marie-Veronica, as they needed new cells, they finished building a wing to the Monastery and took possession of it in 1886.

In 1889, they constructed the chapel. Monsignor laid its first stone and let them open a subscription. The Chartreuse Fathers lent their powerful support, and thanks to them and a generous benefactress whose daughter was a religious in the Monastery, the chapel was completed. On Saturday, the 17th of the month of August 1890, His Lordship, Mons Fava, in the company of numerous clergy, made the solemn consecration of it under the patronage of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, to the joy of all the religious. And so it was with hearts overflowing with gratitude that they chanted the Te Deum laudamus!

This necrology is translated from Fleurs de l'Institut des Rédemptoristines by Mr John R. Bradbury. The copyright of this translation is the property of the Redemptoristine Nuns of Maitland, Australia. The integral version of the translated book will be posted here as the necrologies appear.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Foundation of Soignies (Belgium)

We are very happy to give you some details about the foundation of our dear Community which has only been in existence for twenty six years, and which has so far sent only three of its members to heaven, our Mother Foundress in 1875, and two Choir Sisters.

It was on 28th September 1878 that a little swarm of Redemptoristines left Malines to come and establish themselves here at Soignies. The beginnings of this new foundation were very modest – a little house and resources of every kind, but even more modest. Our privations were great, but it was with a very real joy that we embraced them, out of love of our divine Redeemer who came down to earth and lived here so poor for love of us. When our first house became far too cramped, we had to dream of building. The money we needed was certainly not in our coffers; but in the heart of our revered Mother Marie Lidwine of the Blessed Sacrament we had an inexhaustible source of confidence in the divine Providence, and Our Lord never failed her. We have some delightful tales to tell on this subject; but they are too private to be revealed to the public. Five years after the arrival of the first Redemptoristines at Soignies, on 25th August 1883, the little Community, already flourishing, took final possession of the convent raised by divine Providence at a place in the town called “La Cafeniere.” As soon as it was possible, the enclosure was established and the Rule followed on all points. Yet the construction was far from being finished. At that time we had only what was indispensable in terms of accommodation, but, in time, everything was completed. However, there was some pain in the depths of all our hearts. The Master of this dwelling, Jesus, had only a little room to Himself temporarily converted into a chapel. Building a church, however modest it might be, cost so much! But has our good God not said: “Ask and you shall receive?” We prayed and we received. The Lord aroused generous hearts, and, on 2nd August 1900, we were able to proceed to the blessing of a pretty little Gothic chapel which was dedicated to the Sacred Heart, and under its patronage we also placed the convent, and under the same patronage we are living a very happy life.

What can we tell you about our three dear deceased? Our worthy Foundress and Mother, Sister Marie-Lidwine, was a soul who was very agreeable to our good God. She was devoured with zeal for the glory of her divine Spouse and for the sanctification of the souls which had been entrusted to her, and whom she wished at all costs to make into living copies of Jesus. She was a soul of prayer, devoted to the point of heroism, strong, courageous and never recoiling from any pain. God alone knows if she was ever lacking in any crosses, contradictions and humiliations in the foundation of our dear Monastery! To crown a life so well filled, our good Jesus made her a present of a number of very painful illnesses, which gave us the occasion more than once to admire her patience and her abandonment to the good pleasure of God.

The two other Sisters who left us to go before God were two good religious, two good Sisters, who lives were very simple, but who in no way sought to be noticed except for an exact observance of our holy Rules, and who desired only to please God.

Some favours of Providence.

So we are going to begin by asking your pardon for our silence, and then, with the most entire simplicity, we shall tell you that we are rather disconcerted in how we can satisfy your desire to have some interesting little stories about the goodness of Saint Joseph or Saint Anthony towards us.

Yes, certainly, Saint Joseph and Saint Anthony have helped us a great deal, and God alone knows how many ardent and urgent prayers we have sent up to Him through their intercession, but, to be frank, we cannot affirm that divine Providence has actually anticipated our desires. It has never failed us, but in its plans full of wisdom, it has wanted our prayers to be humble and persevering. Here is an example. During the construction of our Convent, when the work was already far advanced, the builder feared that our funds had run dry, and wanted to have a small advance payment before he would continue. In our coffers, in reality, there was absolutely nothing, but we made sure we did not tell him! We urged him to be patient, telling him that we were waiting for a sum of money which, unfortunately, was slow in coming. We were awaiting a sum, in fact, but it was entirely “from divine Providence!”, and right from the beginning of the enterprise we had been asking Saint Joseph to put in a request for us with our good God’s bank, but it never arrived! One day, tired of waiting, the builder was no longer willing to continue building! With a faith that was more ardent and entreating than ever, we began a new novena of prayers. On the sixth day, without any request on our part, a gentleman sent us a thousand francs, and the next day, a priest of our acquaintance, when he went to visit a family, these people spoke about us and our building, and gave him a small envelope for our Reverend Mother. What did it contain? Two thousand francs! This was Saint Joseph’s reply. A little later on he had more compassion upon us. Poverty, however, remained the greatest master of our Monastery, and our hands never ceased to be stretched out towards Saint Joseph. We lacked everything … except debts. At some distance from our convent, a good Christian, as pious as he was charitable, was spending his leisure time in reading the life of our Father, Saint Alphonsus. He came across the name “Redemptoristines”, and remembered he had heard people speaking about a new foundation of these Sisters at Soignies, and listening only to the inspiration in his heart, he thought that they were perhaps in need and sent them … a thousand francs… All he asked in return was a certain number of prayers for his intentions. For a long time there was great adversity in our little family. How many times did we cry out to our good God: “Lord, save us, we are perishing!” Jesus seemed to be sleeping. Saint Joseph went to gently wake Him up and always, always, we were saved. And also our gratitude towards this charitable Protector has no limits. Every month, the 19th is solemnized by special devotions, and it is rare if Saint Joseph does not show himself satisfied by gratifying us with one or another little temporal or even spiritual favour. Since our glorious Brother Gerard has received the honours of the altars, he also sees us very often at his feet, and our confident simplicity pleases him. Whenever we ask him for one or another useful thing, which is necessary for our maintenance or the nourishment of the Community, he quickly hurries to grant it to us. Sometimes he makes us wait a little to test our faith. Some time ago out in the fields one of us lost the little gold ring that we wear on our finger and which we receive on the day of our profession. Our dear Sister was very distressed about it and ran to tell her pain to Saint Anthony and Saint Gerard. We all searched for it, but in vain! The whole winter, with its snow, rain and frosts passed over the fields. In Spring another Sister was walking on the grass, while still praying to the good saints, and then she felt something a bit hard under her feet. It was the ring, intact! Our good Jesus of Prague is also greatly honoured in our dear Community, which has already felt the sweet effects of His omnipotence in many circumstances; and also, in His honour, and out of gratitude, we are preparing ourselves for a novena of special prayers to be celebrated on the 25th of each month, and His graceful statue occupies a place of honour in our oratory.

This necrology is translated from Fleurs de l'Institut des Rédemptoristines by Mr John R. Bradbury. The copyright of this translation is the property of the Redemptoristine Nuns of Maitland, Australia. The integral version of the translated book will be posted here as the necrologies appear.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Sister Marie-Raphael of the Love of God, O.SS.R. of the Monastery of Grenoble (1875 – 1899)

Born Maria G…

The predestined child whose short existence we are now about to relate, was born at F…, in the Department of the Loire, on 13th July 1875, of virtuous and honourable parents, to whom the Lord granted a numerous family. Her father was called Marcellin G… and her mother Catherine R…

At baptism she received the name of Maria, a privilege she was always happy and proud of, and quite rightly, as she regarded it as a pledge of her heavenly Patron’s protection.

Her good mother, whose multiple occupations with rather important matters absorbed all her attention, saw herself deprived of the consolation of feeding her dear little daughter herself. So she confided her to an outside nurse, a young and inexperienced lady, in whose hands she became so sickly, that Mrs. G… feared she would lose her, and so she took her back. Thereafter, her care and maternal love soon restored the fresh colours of health back to her.

For nine years she was the Benjamin of the family, pampered and caressed by her elder sisters, and protected at every instant by her older brother, who bore her the greatest affection.

In this Christian household, her young soul opened up as if naturally to matters of piety, while at the same time her very loving heart gave itself up, with a very childish abandonment, to the warm and salutary influences of family life.

She had a marked predilection for her Godmother, her aunt Mariette, and this was a reciprocal one. She spent long days with her without becoming tired of her company, as her aunt Mariette was indeed the most excellent person that one could meet – good, sweet, kindly, forgetting herself absolutely for others, and especially for her little God-daughter.

As her mother testifies, she spent even more time with her aunt than she did in the paternal home. They knew that she was in such good hands that no one was concerned about her long absences.

She did not have the restlessness typical of this age. Noisy games scarcely amused her, and more often she was quite content with somewhat serious conversations with her little friends.

If, however, the little group rebelled a little, aunt Mariette had in reserve a wonderful way to restore the peace. She would cry out in a winning tone of voice:

“Come, children, come and find for me all the four-leafed clover you can find in this field. I will give you a coin for each one, and you will be able to do what you want with it.”

They would dart forth, searching as best they could in all the clumps of grass, and when they returned, their good aunt gave coins to those children who were so proud of their discoveries, and who then ran to exchange their treasure with the first shopkeeper who sold lollies…

In these circumstances, our little child many times made the sacrifice of this little pleasure, which children are so avid for at this age, and, discreetly, she would give money and lollies to certain poor children whom she had a great compassion for. According to the testimony of her family, she could never refuse them anything. When her little finances were exhausted, she knew how to convince aunt Mariette about the hard luck of her protégés, and this was never in vain. The dear child and her Godmother were made so as to understand one another, and both of them had a heart of gold. This need, and this pleasure in giving was indeed one of the most remarkable features of our Maria.

When she went out walking, she would always linger behind gathering great armfuls of flowers, and, triumphant with her booty, she would run, out of breath, to bring them to her family, who were by now far ahead on their way.

Sometimes, however, her natural vivacity seemed to prevail over the meekness that she habitually showed. Little quarrels would arise with her sisters over her little friends, and she could be seen, with eyes of fire, ready to hurl herself upon them and support her side of the discussion with the power of her little arms… but these were indeed rare cases, and most often, seeing her so calm, one would have believed that meekness was natural to her.

She already loved prayer and everyone noticed her childish seriousness whenever attention turned to our good God, the catechism or anything else of piety.

Her intelligence was lively and open, and study had a great deal of attraction for her, even more than manual work, which she always found onerous.

At about the age of nine, she had a sort of cyst on her right hand that caused her a great deal of pain, and sometimes hindered the course of her studies. She showed a great deal of self-control on that occasion, and her very pronounced taste for reading served as much to subdue her sufferings as to repair the forced delay in her instruction.

In the meantime, the birth of a little brother was announced to her. Little Benjamin, in an attack of unconscious egoism, did not welcome his coming with much enthusiasm, but quite the opposite, showed her worst face to this poor dear, who had come to replace her as the pampered child.

Little by little, however, when she was permitted to play together with him, she came to enjoy the role of being a little mother, and when a second little brother followed the first, she came to love these two little babies with all her heart, so much so that Mrs. G… was able to entrust her with the task of supervising and amusing them.

The blessed time of First Communion was approaching for Maria. Until then, nothing had given any hint of her beautiful vocation. In her interests, her conversations, her attitude to the Church or anything else, she had demonstrated nothing else other than the ordinary devotion of a child from a Christian family. She fulfilled her religious duties with an extreme regularity, but quite simply, doing neither more nor less than the other children of her age. We know from herself, however, that it was at this solemn moment in her life that Jesus revealed Himself to her heart, captured all its affections and placed the blessed seed in it, which was to grow from year to year and flower, on the day marked by Providence, into the most sublime of vocations.

* * * * *

She made her first communion very piously with a great and profound joy, and thereafter she never spoke without emotion about this day, which was so truly called the most beautiful of her life. From that time on, a taste for the Eucharist became her principal joy.

At the age of fourteen, her good parents confided her to the care of the Marist nuns, who were vowed to the education of young ladies from the country. Together with the rest of her education, she drew from them a more lively piety, and even more enlightened still. Her vocation then became her whole ambition. She worked to study and develop it with a quiet, but profound and secret ardour, speaking of it only to Jesus.

She spent three years in this pious house, where her intellectual labours were crowned with success. She won many laurels in the peaceful contests of the annual competitions, and returned to her family with reputation of being an intelligent, pious and docile student.

This return home, which, for so many young hearts, is the long-desired moment for a freer existence, in which life, in all its effervescence, too often becomes a danger to piety, was successfully negotiated by our pious Maria without damage to her virtue. The angel of vocations watched over this virginal heart, which nothing was able to tarnish.

One of her friends speaks of it in these terms at this time: “She often told me: “How much I long to leave the world! No, no, I am no longer thinking of living here – I want to be in the cloister, as it is only there that I shall be assured of escaping damnation and going to heaven!”

Very often she would sing these lines from a hymn she loved:

“They are no more, these days of woe;
I soon discovered peace of heart,
When all the joys I first did know
Of tabernacles where Thou art!”

This leads us to say that indeed, the dear young lady had days of “woe”. At the age of seventeen, her vocation, which had been nourished since her first Communion in private dialogues with the God hidden in the tabernacle, now seemed so certain and so divine to her, that she could scarcely comprehend the wisdom of her confessor in taking his time to test out the desires which, moreover, she had confided to him for the first time. To her great desolation, all she obtained by way of reply to her overtures were these words, which were most disconcerting to her opinion: “Later, later, we shall see. These are all the ideas of a young lady coming from a convent (referring to her boarding-school), and you will get over them…” Poor Maria wept, returned to her ambition and begged the Lord, “if He so willed”, to enlighten her confessor and not let her languish much longer in the world.

All around her, certain flattering remarks about the graces of her person and the vivacity of her spirit had awoken certain fears in her heart.

Her native pride, if she had not made it her business to subdue it, would have had a field day. She knew it, and this was another spur to encourage her to depart from the world.

She no longer wished to be seen out on the busy main streets, and complained to a friend that she was still obliged to remain in a world that she detested. “I have no need,” she told her, “to go and become better known by the world. I no longer want it, and I wish with all my heart that I was already a nun.”

She expressed her sentiments by this other hymn she preferred among all others:

“Disappear, deceitful human forces:
You will not have the homage of my heart.
God leads me now to much purer sources,
Where torrents of joy are all my part.”

However, she knew how to hide her repugnance and show herself pleasant to her family, where she was very jolly, even full of laughter, loving the innocent amusements that she found there with her young friends.

The wedding of one of her sisters was the occasion for her to show her taste for a contrary vocation. Her devotion and recollected attitude was greatly remarked upon at the marriage ceremony. Many of the attending priests even told her parents as they left the church: “Miss Maria has prayed well for the happiness of her sister!” However, no one had the slightest suspicion that this solemn and pious recollection hid such resolute plans.

The following year, a mission was preached at Firminy by the Fathers of the Most Holy Redeemer. This was no doubt Jesus’ reply to this soul which wanted only Him and had not found either the light or the support she needed to respond to the divine call.

Maria followed the Offices very assiduously, heard nearly all the sermons, and devoted herself with great zeal in the following holy exercises in everything that depended on her. She realised, beyond all doubt, that the good God was making use of this mission to determine her vocation and settle her departure.

Unknown to her family and friends, she went and confided her desires to one of the Fathers who were preaching. He received her “very badly”, she said later, and did not wish in any way to hear her speak of this vocation, which he believed was borne of enthusiasm generated by the mission within this young lady’s ardent heart. The poor child was most disconcerted, but not discouraged, and thought she would find a better welcome in the next confessional … so sure was she of her vocation! Unfortunately, the second Father gave her the same reply, and then, with the sureness of her confidence, she told him: “If you do not want to listen to me, Father, I shall address myself to another, until I find someone who really wants to guide me and advise me, as I am firmly resolved to become a religious, and this is not a passing whim, as you seem to believe.” The Father understood from these words how resolved her soul was, and agreed to give her a few hints about the religious Orders he knew of, but reserved himself until he was more sure of the solidness of her vocation by the usual testing. To his questions about the kind of community which would be suitable for her, she replied without hesitation: “I wish to enter a cloistered Order, but I am rather afraid that the Carmel will be too austere for me and that I will not be able to get accustomed to it. However, I do not wish to enter a teaching Order, like that of the Visitandines, for example.”

Then the Father, who, through a prudent reserve, had not let her suspect the existence of the Redemptoristines, realised that this Order, which is intermediary between the Carmel and the Visitation, was the one that would suit her, and after some further examination, he obtained for her all the information she required, relating to our way of life. Maria, the more she became informed about it, the less she could contain her joy. The spirit of the Rule and the type of community suited her so well that she felt absolutely convinced that God was calling her in amongst us.

Upon leaving the church, the radiant expression upon her face betrayed the joy of her soul, to the point that a good priest who saw her then said to himself: “There is a child who has just taken a great decision!” He mentioned it later to her family, after her departure for the cloister. But she said nothing of it yet, praying with all her soul to the Virgin of Perpetual Succour, whom she had learned to love in the boarding school, to help her to leave this world that she could no longer endure.

At the end of the month of May, entrusting herself to the protection of her Mother in heaven, she made the effort to speak one day to Mrs. G…, not without some difficulty, and embraced her tenderly. She began by asking pardon of her for the involuntary pain that she was going to cause her … and then, in a more assured voice, she told her: “Mother, I want to become a religious in a cloistered convent, in the Redemptoristines. There is a monastery of this Order at Grenoble, and this is where I want to go.”

The good mother’s surprise soon changed into a supernatural joy, seeing the noble energy of her young daughter. She realised all the exquisite goodness of her loving heart, and understood very quickly that her vocation had to be a serious and divine one, to give her such strength to make the sacrifices it required so generously.

Besides, this pious lady had always sought and asked of God to choose Himself a bride from among her daughters and a minister from among her sons. Maria therefore was well placed to hope for her mother’s consent. She explained in detail to her mother about the rule, habit and customs of the religious of the Most Holy Redeemer, and communicated to her all the information that she had been able procure about it. After some moments of mutual outpouring, Mrs. G…’s conviction was formed, and the dear child for her part did not have to undergo the crucifying uncertainties of spirit or heart that are the trial and the martyrdom of certain vocations.

* * * * *

A pilgrimage to the grotto of Lourdes was organized at Firminy at about this time. Her good parents permitted her to take part in it, in order to obtain from the Blessed Virgin the fullness of the light required upon the way for her to follow. So she left with a friend and certain persons of confidence to whom they had been recommended. At Lourdes, Maria spent all her time in prayers in the grotto and the basilica, or in following the processions and joining ardently in the chanting of the hymns, so much so that her voice became quite hoarse with it. She scarcely took any rest before midnight, so much did she prolong her devotions. The persons to whom her parents had entrusted her finished by losing sight of her, which permitted her, even unknown to her friend, to pay a visit to the Reverend Mother Prioress of the Carmelites, with the aim of seeing if God was truly not calling her to the Carmel.

The Mother Prioress, arriving in the parlour, showed herself much astonished and very incredulous when she heard what so young a lady had to say… Maria, a little disconcerted at not seeing herself taken more seriously, replied to her questions in but a trembling and stammering voice, which, joined to her hoarseness, served as a pretext to the Reverend Mother to show her out politely and tell her: “I do not believe, Miss, that you will be able to accustom yourself to the Rule of our convent, and besides, your voice does not seem clear enough to me to satisfy the obligation of the holy Office.”

Maria, who later on recounted this setback good-humouredly, was not troubled by it, but comforted. She departed from the Carmel, persuaded now that her noticeable lack of attraction for this Order was not an illusion.

We cannot fail to admire here how God, through His Providence, arranges everything, so as to lead souls to the place that He has prepared for them from all eternity.

The dear fugitive returned very late to the hotel that evening, where everyone was in search of her person on all sides. She accepted the reproaches that seemed justified, and so as not to reveal the secret of her vocation, she did not let even her friend suspect what had been the reason for this solitary excursion.

Upon their return, they made a stop at Cette, where the view of the sea made a profound impression upon her naturally contemplative soul. We leave aside a thousand joyous incidents which a too long to relate and irrelevant to our subject, but which thereafter were the fruit of her most lively recreations.

The aim of the pilgrimage was attained, since our dear young lady brought back from the blessed grotto the interior and absolute certainty that God wanted her to be a Redemptoristine at Grenoble.

Her good mother, who finally decided not to make her wait too long a time, accompanied her to our Monastery in the month of June, with the aim of letting her examine close up the convent she so much desired. They were welcomed by our Reverend Mother Marie-Philomene, who from the very first meeting won all their confidence and deep affection, as did the community. Maria was completely filled with joy. Everything pleased her. She felt at ease, at home, in her place finally. Mrs. G… left her for ten days with the intention of giving her the ability of informing herself better about everything, and prepare herself, with a good retreat, for her departure from her family.

She was thus able to attend the beautiful feasts of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in our chapel, and hear a Redemptorist Father preach, which gave her great pleasure and did her great good.

At the same time as her, a young lady of a certain age was studying her vocation in our Monastery. Our happy Maria found, in this unexpected companion, a mentor as original as she was pleasant, for going on the little walks they did then. How many joyful remarks the memory of this evoked later on! For indeed we must say, her fine perspicacity very quickly found the pleasant side of people or things, and the novitiate was to mellow a little more that innocent maladroitness that was starting to become noticed in her.

Fully convinced of the divine call, her return to F… was enlivened by the prospect of forthcoming entry into our convent, and saddened at the same time, in her affectionate heart, by the thought of the definitive sacrifice that she was about to make.

She wanted to bring back some blessed souvenirs to her family, and in the process of procuring them she spent the rest of her limited funds.

Mrs. G… was busy at this time in obtaining the consent of her good father, who could not give up, except by means of floods of tears, this dear Benjamin to God who had chosen her for His bride. He objected especially to Maria’s age, but her good Mother replied to him very judiciously: “If she has no vocation, the younger she enters, the younger she will come out, and the less harm it will do her; but, if she truly has a vocation, as I believe, she cannot give herself too early to our good God.”

For two months Maria occupied herself with great ardour for her departure. A certain great trunk, that we were to find later, held all the objects she kept or believed to be useful. They were all crammed one upon the other.

On her table she had placed a picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, before which she loved to kneel down to recite her chaplet, or do her prayers and pious readings. It was there that she would spend her days, after making her long visits to the church and finishing her duties to her family, scarcely paying attention to her interior travails, which never had any attraction for her, and less still to the news of the world. Some of her closest friends had occasion at that time to appreciate the firmness of her decision and the ardour of her desires. “I am saying farewell with all my heart to everything I love here,” she said, “to our church, and even the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, where I have received so many graces. Pray for it well.”

However, in spite of her enthusiasm, she never imposed her opinions upon anybody. If sometimes, in conversation, she met with resistance, she would simply change the subject without blaming anybody.

On a walk she took with some of her companions, she talked for a long time to one of them with a great abandonment, and this lady affirmed that she was quite astonished and very edified with the simple and judicious good sense with which she valued everything.

In her fervour, she would have liked the persons in whom she was interested to be full of religious sentiments like her. She would discreetly encourage the fidelity of her friends to all the duties of piety, especially those that she thought they were somewhat neglecting. A zeal for souls was thus burning in the soul of our future Redemptoristine.

She had set the date for her departure for the first days of September 1894, and now there only remained to her the time for her farewells. She prayed a great deal to her beloved Lady of Perpetual Succour, about whom she had spoken in confidence to one of her little study companions while she was still at the boarding school: “This holy Virgin is granting me everything I ask, even to know my lessons when I have not learnt them.” And then our dear postulant rose up quite resolute and with a strengthened heart to go and embrace all her family.

We have already spoken of the tenderness of her affections, that those around her conveyed by this apt expression: “Maria has a heart of gold.” We can only guess at what these last days meant to her, these last hours and these last embraces. How many tears did she pour out, in spite of her supernatural strength in the accomplishment of her sacrifice! But they were blessed tears! The angels counted them, and the harvest of merits that were watered by them has already been gathered into the barns of Paradise.

A friend has preserved for us the words of the solemn farewell that she uttered on the vigil of her departure. They bring out the beautiful sentiments of her soul into the daylight:

“Farewell, for I do not think I will see you again here below, but I shall see you in heaven! As for coming back into the world, I would rather die! Pray well to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and to blessed Gerard, whose picture I am leaving you. Our good God is separating us for a time, in order to reunite us forever in His beautiful heaven. Always go forward in courage and confidence! When we make sacrifices, we need to make them completely. “All or nothing” – this is the motto we should follow. I am going to Grenoble to be further away from my family, as I would not have the courage to be a religious near my family.”

She spoke likewise of the worthy mistresses who had brought her up, when they made clear their regrets and not seeing her enter their own institute, to devote herself there with them to the education of young people. Maria showed herself so resolved to embrace the contemplative life, and for such good reasons, that these good nuns understood her and congratulated her sincerely on her determination.

* * * * *

She left the paternal home on 5th September at four o’clock in the morning, accompanied by two of her sisters. Her good mother was consoled in not being able to make the journey with her, by promising to come soon to see her in her dear monastery. Mr. G…, in spite of the sobbing torn from his father’s heart by the sorrowful separation, decided to bring the travellers himself as far as Saint-Etienne, where they took the train for Lyon. They were all weeping, and Maria, although she was very brave, wept even more than the others, as she left those places where her youthful purity had run its course, innocent and happy, among so many loving hearts and which she had so tenderly loved. To give themselves more courage, the three sisters decided to make the pilgrimage of Our Lady of Fourvieres at Lyon together. Our young postulant received the Bread of the strong there, with the particular unction of sacrifice that God imparts to the beautiful days of vocation, when grace bears souls along. Then, with much interest, they visited the basilica under construction, and after meeting up with some of their friends from the boarding school, they could not refuse spending a few moments with them. The day was spent like this, hiding the feelings that filled all their hearts under a veil of apparent distractions.

They took the train at four o’clock and arrived in Grenoble at eleven o’clock at night. On the following day they had a long meeting with the Reverend Mother, who was happy to see them again. Finally on 7th September, having accompanied her two sisters to the station, she said her farewells to them and returned alone to the monastery, where she found Miss Noemi D… (Sister Marie-C... of the Holy Cross) who had come, like her, to consecrate herself to God. They both entered at two thirty pm. The chaplain presided at this touching ceremony. Maria, in spite of some tears and a great deal of astonishment, as everything was unknown to her inside the enclosure, found her every wish fulfilled and could not contain her childlike joy.

They had scarcely entered when the bell called them to Vespers. Reverend Mother led the two postulants there and they followed, as they loved to recall later on, with the solemness of canonesses, one beside the other.

Her good heart very quickly became attached to her new family, which received her very cordially, and yet how hard and painful the sacrifice of her family was to her! For long months, this was the subject of very meritorious efforts and bitter holocausts, which she made with all the generosity of her rich nature, aided by a lively and sincere piety. It is not possible to leave so Christian, so loving and so united a family without breaking your heart!

During one of those first days, her mistress suddenly heard cries and sobbing in her cell and came running. She found her sitting in the middle of it, on the floor, in a veritable fit of childish sorrow, striking her head and weeping hot tears. To console her, she knelt down beside her, trying by all the means suggested by her heart to soften this bitter desolation. Nothing worked. Maria sighed in a tone of utter anguish: My family, my family!... Getting up in a single leap she said: “I am going to find Reverend Mother” and she fled, running as fast as she could. It seemed that the cup of maternal consolations was difficult to drain, as she was not seen until a long time afterwards in the educandate. This little scene describes her vividly.

The beginnings of religious life were very arduous for this good child who, it is true, brought to Our Lord a soul full of candour and generosity, but which, having scarcely ever known any other yoke than that of her whims as a spoilt child, collided with all our observances. It required time, much meekness and a powerful grace to bend to the exigencies of an austere rule this spirit of infantile independence which dominated her, unknown to her. Yet to no one did success ever appear to be in doubt, because the dear educande, in spite of her boarding school pranks, showed a truly remarkable constancy in prayer, and a will to do well which one day was to become the source of her real virtues. She said: “I used to believe that, to be a religious, it was enough to love the good God well and do my prayers, and afterwards, I could go and talk with my friends and do whatever I wanted.”

So her first few months were rather difficult in certain respects, but in fact this served to highlight the strength of character with which Maria was endowed.

Very outgoing and active as she was, she had her work cut out to contain herself, and how many times did she have to retreat in order to advance! But then finally she showed that she had set her nature to one side after many sincere attempts.

As soon as she understood that religious life is a life of abnegation and sacrifice for the love of God, she moved forward, with a courageous and very sustained ardour, along this way of holiness, and she was never to stop. Of her sensitive and affectionate nature, she kept what was necessary for this good family life which our first Mothers have bequeathed to us, but she pitilessly immolated all satisfaction or seeking of heart that was too human, through efforts that God blessed visibly and by which the whole community was greatly edified.

Her outbursts of temper became more rare, and she was obliged to repair for them by acts of humility which were at no little cost to her natural pride.

Liveliness, going sometimes to little acts of temper; habits of independence and comfort; attachment to many persons or little things, especially those contained in her famous trunk, remained legendary; all this gave her the salutary need for this struggle which ended with the reform of herself according to the model of the virtues of Jesus Christ.

The educandate at this time contained five educandes, a number sufficient for this friction of tempers where we learn so well to know and contend against ourselves. She knew how to profit from it, and when, after six months of testing, she was presented to the chapter, the community admitted her with joy, in the hope of soon finding in her an excellent novice.

She made the retreat in preparation for her taking of the habit with a fervour whose echo we find in a letter written at this time to one of her friends. She told her:

“My dear retreat! Oh, such wonderful days! How quickly they have passed! Yet if only I was inflamed by the love of God… Our poor nature in itself is not very inflammable, especially if it is for a sacrifice. Pray well for me to really give everything to our good God, so that I may become a good religious, a true Redemptoristine, really all for Him, and it is in His Heart that I shall always find you. With God we are never lost.”

Another time she wrote to her: “Pray well for me that I may always follow my vocation courageously, without looking back. Religious life is a life of sacrifice, and when you enter, you need to have a good provision of courage in reserve.”

This courage was something she always had, because she was constantly faithful in asking for it through prayer. Her retreat was a laborious one. She willing gave herself to it, and God, who never allows Himself to be outdone in generosity, filled her with practical graces (as she said good-humorously) instead of spiritual sweet-meats, which her sensitive piety would perhaps have preferred.

Her vesting took place at the same time as that of her companion who entered with her, on 3rd September 1895, the feast of the Mother of the Divine Shepherd. Maria received the beautiful name of Sister Marie-Raphael of the Love of God. She was radiant with joy. Rev. Father F…, a Redemptorist, gave the usual homily.

After seeing her so happy under her white veil, her parents were no longer able to hold a single doubt about her vocation, which was considered by everyone as a blessing from God, reflecting upon the entire family.

Dating from this moment, she went forward with an even firmer step along the path of renunciation and mortification. The great openness of her heart and her perfect observance facilitated the way of perfection for her. Her novitiate was therefore very fervent, and her companions of that time remember with much edification her many acts of virtue, which took place before their eyes.

She was ingenious in profiting from little occasions to mortify her taste, saying that she had indulged it too much by the thousand dainties of her childhood. So this is why, with the permission of her mistress, she set aside the rare sweetmeats distributed in the noviciate during recreations, and brought them to the Reverend Mother, so that she could give them to the poor. Besides the penances prescribed by the Rule, which she always did with great fidelity, and for the sake of poor sinners, she applied herself very conscientiously to profit from all occasions, in the refectory and elsewhere, to mortify herself. She would have liked to wear instruments of penance, and pestered her mistresses to obtain them, but in vain, as her constitution and her youth commanded a prudent reserve which her ardour scarcely understood. Indeed, it was to her great sorrow that she was not able to attain her ends.

More than once she found matter for virtue, for her ardent and outgoing nature, in mutual relationships, and she made remarkable progress on this point. They are the indubitable index of her fidelity to grace. She brought to everything that perseverance of will which, with her piety, was the principal feature of her character.

Our feasts and recreations allowed her good heart to blossom.

No one was more ingenious than her in tearing Reverend Mother away from her occupations and bringing her either to the educandate or the novitiate. This was her happiness! When she became sad because of the long obligatory intervals that this good Mother placed between her visits, she would rise up very excited and say: “Permit me to go and find her, Mother Mistress, and you will soon see that I will bring her to you.” In fact, she often had this filial success dear to her heart. Many times she would repay her personally in the form of little poems, more rich in inspiration than in rhyme and metre, perhaps, but always full of life and religious spirit.

Her devotion to the community knew no other bounds than that of the impossible. She would importune parents and friends, without ever being dismayed by any delay.

“We are so poor,” she would say, “that you simply must come to the aid of the community.” And as her family’s generosity never failed her little requests, this was a great joy to her. The first year of her novitiate passed in this way, in a sincere fervour and application to her religious formation. We saw our dear novice change very rapidly and give us the most beautiful hopes. It was then that she took the recollected expression that she kept right to the end, and which spread across her whole personality the stamp of a modest gravity.

During the course of her novitiate, she had one of the most perilous temptations possible against her vocation. She read the life of Saint Teresa written by the Carmelites and imagined that she had been deceived, and that it was to the Carmel that God had called her. She felt herself attracted in this way and yet she did not wish to leave the dear community that she loved so much. She opened herself up to her Mother Mistress, who tried to make her understand that what she was experiencing was pure temptation and the attempt of the demon to deflect her from her true vocation, but this reasoning had little effect and the temptation continued. Then Mother Mistress spoke more strongly, telling her that since she was always thinking of the Carmel then she ought to go there. This time these words cut short her dangerous temptation, which did not return.

When the time arrived, the Chapter admitted her easily to her holy Vows. She prepared herself for them like a soul which understands the importance of this great act. Her retreat, like that of her vesting, was certainly not an oasis of pleasant sweetness, but a field of battle where her victory was complete. In a moment of abandonment, when she was in the infirmary, she said one day to her companion in profession, in a tone of malicious reproach: “You always take everything for yourself! During the retreat for my profession, and the three days that followed, our good God said nothing to me. You took everything!” (emphasizing these words with a smile full of good spirit). So we know from herself that our good Jesus left her all the merit of her immolation, which was the means of elevating her more and more into the serene region of forgetfulness of self, through love and the accomplishment of only the will of God, this manna in our desert, according to the words of the revered Father Desurmont.

This was the last testing of her vocation. A letter to a faithful friend initiates us again into her feelings:

“I am to make my profession on 8th September,” she wrote to her, “and I am fortunate in seeing this day arrive that I have desired for so long, a day of complete sacrifice which will make me the Bride of Our Lord forever. Oh, how the good things I am leaving behind seem as nothing compared to those I am acquiring! I am abandoning perishable things to have eternal ones… Ask our good God for me to become a very fervent religious, for if the honour we receive is a great one, it means we must live up to it in consequence: noblesse oblige – and I shall not leave my poor nature under the mortuary cloth, but suffering valiantly borne will merit us heaven. Courage, dear friend, and besides, what does it matter if the way is more or less a long one, a more or less united one, provided that we arrive in heaven! Always move forward, and we shall soon arrive at our goal.”

We can hear the young novice’s soul maturing and the enthusiasm of her infantile piety give way to the solid foundations of the religious virtues.

* * * * *

The great day finally arrived. It was 8th September 1896, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. Under the protection of her Mother in heaven, whom she loved so much, she vowed herself forever to poverty, obedience, chastity and perpetual enclosure, having well weighed this yoke of the Lord, which love rendered light. With a great and ardent love she gave herself totally to Jesus and did not hesitate once. Rev. Father G…, following the end of the retreat where he preached the exercises, presided at the ceremony of the vows and gave a beautiful homily on the excellence of the religious life.

Her family, so profoundly Christian, surrounded the dear novice at this solemn moment, which was a sweet consolation to her heart.

Full of the graces of this beautiful day, Sister Marie-Raphael continued her exercises in the novitiate with a fervour that was even more sustained and a very visible union of her soul with God. Her good character became more at ease than ever, transfigured by virtue. Little by little she acquired the habits of humility and punctual regularity, which had been so onerous for her at the beginning, and her spirit of prayer became almost continual. On the days when the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, she would spend all her time in adoration. On those days, she told our Reverend Mother many times: “My Mother, your occupations prevent you from praying as much as you would like, but give me your heart, and I shall bring it with mine before the Blessed Sacrament.”

In the same way, on Sundays or during the week, she would devote all her free time faithfully to prayer, and when everyone retired to bed after our long Offices for the days of Lent or feasts of the 1st class, we would see Sister Marie-Raphael, always avid for prayer, still kneeling before the altar and remaining there until the last minute, whenever her duties permitted. This did not do any harm to her work, because, although she was more favoured with intellectual gifts than manual skills, our dear little Sister devoted herself joyfully to the service of the community in everything that was within her powers.

Finally she had to leave this dear noviciate, the home of the happiest years of her life. The poor little Sister poured out many tears. The sacrifice was a hard one, a very hard one for her loving heart, but, aided by the exercises of a solid retreat, she did so generously, and we had the joy of welcoming her into the community on 8th September 1897. And by her warmth, she was the joyful element there of our recreations. Her good family spirit made her participation welcome to all our Sisters. Nothing is so salutary as the cordial and open manner of a religious who is quite clearly dedicated to God and her community, and Sister Marie-Raphael had this gift more than anyone.

She was in turn portress, assistant to the refectorian and the laundry mistress, and practised a constant virtue in these different employments. Her transformation was complete, and there was not even a question of outbreaks of independence, of the kind that made her reply formerly to her mistress in the educandate, when she urged her to show obedience to the Reverend Mother:

“First of all I have to do the work, and I’ll be obedient afterwards.”

No more, either in her tone, or in her words, was there anything reprehensible. There was only a bright blushing which showed suddenly on her face during severe obstacles, and which showed the struggle in her nature, held in the vice of her strong will.

She had much to struggle with in her heart, which was very much disposed to lively and natural affections, and she did so with determination. She greatly loved Reverend Mother, and in the first year of her religious life she profited from the least occasions to go and find her and remain with her as long as she could without worrying in her mind if she was distracting her in her occupations. Later on, during her noviciate, especially in the last year, she mortified herself on this point and restrained herself from going to the Reverend Mother, doing so only for genuine reasons. She felt that Our Lord was jealous of this affection, and that He wanted her heart entirely to Himself, and so she made a complete sacrifice of it to Him.

Another little trait will also depict for us her generosity in virtue. The Very Rev. Provincial was visiting the Monastery, and the community was called to the parlour to receive his blessing and profit from a very paternal meeting. Our dear Sister greatly loved these meetings, but on this day she had to make a sacrifice of it. Being employed as the Companion, she had been sent to supervise the workmen who were working in the house. This privation cost her a great deal, but nonetheless she did not give the least little sign of annoyance or discontent.

Although her voice was off-key, she put herself to a great deal of trouble to learn the principles of Gregorian chant, so as to better fulfil her vocation. She said: “If only I could manage to intone the Psalms when I am the first choir Sister!” She loved the Divine Office so much that she studied the meaning of the liturgical words in a translation kept for the use of the Community. She showed a diligence that never wavered.

The keenness of her intelligence and her excellent memory, aided by the light of grace, also helped her to appreciate more and more this divine function which makes us similar to the angels in heaven.

Her health, without being the most robust, permitted up till then to follow the common life. But towards the middle of summer she began to cough from time to time, and somewhat neglected the precautions that she was recommended to take, telling the Infirmarian: “It’s nothing, it’s just a frog I have in my throat”, and she laughed at herself.

However, at the end of October, going with her companions to hang out the washing on wash day, she noticed that she was spitting some blood. As she did not know that this was a case that could turn serious, she did not say a word to anyone, and for three days she continued the same work. On 25th October, feeling a great weariness and having a headache, she thought she had a migraine, to which she was subject, and with an edifying energy, she would never take a moment’s rest except when she could not stand on her feet. So she went to ask if she could go and lie down on her bed with her migraine, without saying anything more, but one of our Sisters, who had seen her handkerchief stained with blood, told the Infirmarian, who informed herself of everything, and immediately understood the gravity of the imprudence she had committed.

Our Sister Marie-Raphael, with her heart of gold, had concealed her illness, as she admitted herself, because, knowing that Reverend Mother, whom she loved with such devotion, was very affected by the state of a sick Sister in the community, she did not want to add to her pain by speaking to her about her own misfortune, and also, in her simplicity, she did not believe that it would be anything of consequence.

Very quickly, she was submitted to an examination by the doctor who declared that her state was serious. She had to go to bed and maintain complete rest. The fever became intense. Nonetheless, Sister Marie-Raphael, in her inexperience, did not understand that it was a matter of life and death, but, ardent and pious as she was, she accepted this cross joyfully and let herself be looked after like a child.

Reverend Mother gave her an obedience to unite herself with the prayers the community was saying to obtain her cure from the revered Father Desurmont,[1] and she replied: “My Mother, I shall unite myself to them through obedience.”

She was entrusted with a handkerchief which this holy religious had once had. She put it on her chest with great confidence, and every time she felt her blood bubbling, she would cry out with a charming naïveté: “Father Desurmont, I must not spit blood, I do not wish to spit blood, because our Mother has forbidden me!” In fact she obtained this grace, but she did not obtain the grace of her cure. Divine Providence hastened the degrees of the ascension of her soul in such a manner, that she was very close to attaining her end, even though she was still so young, as she was only twenty three. It was very hard for us to think that we would not be able to be edified by the spectacle of her virtues for much longer. Her time amongst us was a very short one. Having entered on 8th September 1894, she was to leave us for heaven in February 1899. But always, especially at the beginning of her novitiate, she wanted to die young. She would say: “Life is not so wonderful that we can sin too much, and it is not worth the trouble to live a long time.”

On 20th November, the doctor declared that she would be lucky to last three months. So all we could do was to be resigned to this terrible news which cut all our hearts to the core. She was sent down to the infirmary where every care imaginable was offered to her, but without any appreciable result.

Even on this occasion she still gave proof of her strength of will, when it came to taming nature. Having recently come out of the Novitiate, and having then had some very distracting tasks to do, right up to the moment of her illness, she was little accustomed to the solitude of a cell, a solitude which is so agreeable once it is experienced! It also cost her a great deal to find herself alone in that great infirmary, and in spite of the promises which the Sister Infirmarian made to her about coming every moment and sending visitors to her, she scarcely welcomed being in her new residence. For three days we could see a struggle in her heart, but on the fourth day, when the Sister Infirmarian came in, she found her patient radiant with joy, and asked her the cause of it. “Ah!” she said, “it is because I have promised our good God to be very happy in the infirmary, and I have made my act so well from the bottom of my heart that now I am completely happy.”

Our dear invalid in no way had any inkling of her approaching end. It was the Rev. Father M…, who came to us for extraordinary confessions, who made her understand this, with a tact and delicacy by which she was greatly touched. She came out of the confessional radiant, happy that she would soon be going to Paradise.

In spite of this announcement, in spite of such evident symptoms of consumption, Sister Marie-Raphael still did not understand what illness had attacked her. And also, when Reverend Mother came a moment afterwards in the infirmary, our invalid asked her: “My Mother, what illness do I have?” – “An illness in your chest, my poor dear.” – “Ah, an illness in my chest! I didn’t know. But what I do know is that I will soon be going to see our good God, because Father M… has just told me. Oh, how happy I am! I am going to use the time that our good God has still given me for nothing else than acts of love and abandonment.”

From the very first visit by the Sister Infirmarian, our dear invalid hasten to communicate her joy to her also and once again witnessed the happiness that was flowing out of her soul at the thought of shortly being with out good God. The Sister Infirmarian was moved and told her: “Oh well! What acts would you like me to suggest to you, when the strength of your illness will prevent you from doing them by yourself?” – “Oh, acts of love and abandonment – yes, acts of abandonment, because this is what is the most perfect.”

All this happened on 7th December, the vigil of the Immaculate Conception, her privileged feast.

On the 24th, the vigil of Christmas, she asked Reverend Mother for permission to attend our beautiful night feasts, a permission that was granted to her. On that occasion our invalid gave fresh proof of her fervour, which seemed to grow the more the solemn moment approached. When, in the course of the procession, Reverend Mother came to the infirmary to bring her the blessing of the Infant Jesus, she expected to have to go right up to the bed where her invalid was, but you can imagine her surprise when she saw Sister Marie-Raphael at the door of the infirmary, just like all the other Sisters who were not sick, at the doors of their cells. And in spite of her extreme weakness, she also wanted to go and renew her vows. “Yes,” she said, “I have to go and renew my vows, and do so with all the strength I have, as I want everyone to know that I am blessed in being given to our good God and in soon going to begin my union with Him.”

In fact, she renewed her vows with a rather strong voice, but she had to stop at almost every word, because her suffocations were almost continuous.

On 28th December she received a visit from one of her sisters who thought she was saddened by the prospect of her approaching death and tried to delude her about her state: “You are still young,” she told her, “and you will soon be better, all the more so because you have never been ill before, and so you will have the strength to get on top of it more than other people.”

When she heard these words, our dear invalid contented herself with replying with a smile, and an instant afterwards, when she bid her farewells to her beloved sister, she told her: “We shall not see each other again here below, but I shall pray well for you, your husband and your children. I shall see you again in heaven, where I promise you I shall keep places for all of you.”

She keenly desired to arrive there on 31st December, the day dedicated to attracting all the Patrons of the year to her, so she would learn, she said, which Saint the Divine Providence would appoint to bring her to heaven. When Reverend Mother visited her for the first time, she told her: “My Mother, I am counting on your goodness to draw down my Patron of the year to me. As soon as you know who it is, I beg you, come quickly and tell me, so that I can tell them to bring me there as soon as possible.”

Providence appointed Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, which filled her with joy. “I could not be presented there better than by them to the Blessed Virgin, their august daughter, and to Our Lord. What powerful protectors our good God has given me!”

It would be difficult to say what edification our invalid gave us from day to day. At the beginning of January she told Reverend Mother that she was quite surprised to find herself in such great security in regard to the affairs of her soul. Her delicate conscience made her fear that she was living in an illusion, and in the false peace which is so much to be feared. She wanted to seek light on this subject from Rev. Father G…, who, as we recall, had preached the retreat which preceded her profession, and presided at the ceremony, and who, she said, had heard her general confession and was perfectly aware of the state of her conscience.

The Reverend Father hastened to reassure her by sending her the following letter on 9th January, which left her in such peace that no cloud, no matter how small, was ever able to trouble her. “Your letter, my dear Sister, has touched me profoundly. You are suffering, and yet you have thought to send me a few words. Regard this revelation about your state as a very great grace, and also the confident acceptance with which you have received it. Yes, my child, you are right, death is before anything else the gateway to heaven, and the entry into the palace of Jesus, our God, the beloved Spouse of your heart, for whom you have left everything else. You are not under any illusion in envisaging things thus – on the contrary. Your general confession has been well made; do not return to it again and be in peace. All the past has been annihilated completely in the blood of our divine Saviour.

“This is how you are to sanctify yourself. Renew often your acceptance of death, and tell Jesus that you are giving Him full power over your person. Enjoy repeating your vows of religion and offering them to God together with your life. To these acts join acts of repentance and love especially, or rather, acts of repentance through pure love, and then abandon yourself. Repeat the words of the Blessed Virgin: Fiat mihi (Let it be done to me). Unite yourself to Jesus in His agony on the cross, and often murmur the words of this good Saviour: “O my God, may Your will be done! – Do not abandon me. – I place my soul into Your hands…”

“It is quite probable, my dear child, that I shall not see you again upon this earth, but let us both say: “May the will of God be done!” I shall see you in the Heart of Our Lord and when you are there with our good God, you will not forget me, will you? You must pray for Reverend Mother, for your community, for me, for my works, and for one thing especially – that our good God will make you known in Paradise.

“So farewell, dear child, I bless you from the depth of my heart, and I promise you all of my prayers. Have confidence. Pray to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Saint Joseph, Saint Alphonsus and Blessed Gerard. Accept the consolations that are offered you in all simplicity. Take them the same way that you would offer them to another, that is the best thing.

“Have faith in your little brother. Once again, I bless you and I shall meet with you again in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and later on in heaven.

“Your devoted Father,
A. G…”

* * * * *

After reading these words, which were as consoling as they were fortifying, our invalid did just as she had been advised and did nothing else other than multiple acts of love and contrition. Her desire to go and see her Jesus grew from day to day.

Towards the end of January she received a visit from the doctor from whom she learnt with joy that she could expect no more than a few weeks, and said to him humorously: “For how many more months then, doctor?” – “Ah, my poor little Sister, not months, but days, and only a few days at that.” At these words, our dear invalid, who had the pious habit of joining her hands together when she had something to say or had to listen to something important, now joined her trembling hands and replied, radiant with joy: “I thank you, doctor, for the good news that you have brought me today, and I promise you that in gratitude for the pleasure that you have given me by your announcement, and also for the devoted care that you have given me, I shall pray a great deal for you and all your family.”

The doctor, who was a profoundly religious man, replied: “My Sister, I understand your joy at the approach of death. You have already given yourself to our good God with all your heart, and you realise that shortly you will be giving yourself to Him in an absolutely irreversible manner. Your fate is indeed worthy of envy. Pray for me to die with the same dispositions.”

* * * * *

One of her infirmarians has given us several notes which will help to show us to what degree of perfection our dear invalid had managed to raise herself in so few years. We shall include every word of them:

“What struck the most about Sister Marie-Raphael was her candour and her childlike simplicity. She had the soul of a child.

“We saw her always united to God. She did not have to say any words, but her eyes, whether they were fixed on the Crucifix, or on the picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, or Saint Alphonsus, announced that her soul was praying. She would do like little pilgrimages to the paper pictures decorating her cell.

“The first time Reverend Mother came to tell her that the Chaplain would confess her and the next day he would give her communion in viaticum, I went up to her and found her in tears. “Why are you weeping?” I asked her. – “It is because I am happy, very happy, because tomorrow I will communicate.” The deprivation of Holy Communion was very painful for her. She slept but little, and most often with her mouth open, because of her painful oppression, and so her lack of sleep, taken in such conditions, became a new suffering for her, without mentioning her cough, which at every instant tore at her chest.

“When she experienced a more acute pain, she would repeat under her breath: “Everything for you, my Jesus, everything for you!” When she was able to walk for a while, her joy was in making a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. She had a very confident soul; not a shadow, not a cloud in the sky.

“When she was not in too much distress, she would take up her little breviary of the Sacred Heart, and look over the little office of the day with her eyes. She particularly loved the Sunday one which was all about confidence, and the Tuesday one which was all about the cross. From this last one she transcribed these words which she often reread: “We become holy only by humbling ourselves, renouncing ourselves, and crucifying ourselves in everything and everywhere.” She was so good and so delicate in her sentiments, that she was always afraid that she was putting people to too much trouble. She sometimes told me: “Oh, what a burden I am. I sincerely ask your pardon.” She certainly was not a burden, poor little Sister, but devoured by fever as she was, we constantly had to give her something to drink. She was upset by seeing her Sisters caring for her during the night. It was to give them less trouble that she asked Father Desurmont to stop herself spitting blood. When she knew what her illness was later on, she never asked him for a cure, because she said she was quite content to go home to our good God. She was always so desirous of observing her Rule that, in her delirium, it was always the Divine Office to be recited or her job to do that made her speak. She was always very pleasant to look after, as she would take her remedies in perfect obedience. She always remained a child, but a child in whom the practice of virtue had corrected her faults. Besides her simplicity and her candour, she also had a great generosity of soul. She was great in her ideas and her sentiments and always had a great horror of anything which in any way smacked of littleness of spirit.”

The witness of our Reverend Mother Marie-Philomene is more precious still. We reproduce it in its entirely.

“Our dear Sister Marie-Raphael, during her illness, always showed a perfect obedience to the infirmarians and her Superior, and was always very grateful for the blessings and care that they offered her. “I will repay you all in heaven,” she often said. She retained her fervour from the novitiate until her death. If anyone asked her if she wanted this or that thing, she would reply: “I am a religious. It is wrong for me to be so occupied with my body, and I must not say what pleases me or does not please me.”

“She had given herself quite entirely to Our Lord and never regretted it, and also, the last months of her short life were spent in pure love and confidence. After she learnt the full gravity of her illness, she threw herself even more into acts of love and abandonment to the holy will of God. “I love You, I love You, O my God!” she would often say, “and I want whatever you want.” – “Look at me, O my God, here to do Your will.” She desired to die with all her soul to go and see her good God and love Him a great deal, “Yes, a great deal,” she would say, “because He is so good, and He must be so beautiful!”

“And she would say in her childlike simplicity: “He couldn’t put me in Purgatory, because I love Him too much! I asked Him on the day of my profession to let me die in an act of perfect love, and since then, I have asked Him every day at the holy Mass, and surely I shall be heard.”

The Chaplain gave her the sacrament of Extreme Unction on Sunday 15th January. She was radiant with joy and followed the prayers with a great deal of attention and spirit of faith. She asked pardon of the community in terms so humble and touching that we were all quite moved to tears by it. After the Chaplain departed she told me: “My Mother, the Chaplain has not said all the prayers.” – “But, my little one”, I told her, “he has given you Extreme Unction and an Indulgence for a good death, but only the effect of this will not be applied to you until your last breath.” – “Yes, but he has not said “Depart, Christian soul.” – “That is because it is not said until the moment of agony, and you are not there yet.” – “What a shame that I am not leaving right away, as I am so well prepared! I would fly straight away to heaven.”

“The next day she had enough strength to go and see her mother in the parlour. This poor mother was drowning in tears, but our dear invalid had enough strength of soul to remain calm. She told her mother about the happiness of a religious who dies within her community, in the midst of her Sisters praying for her.

“How beautiful it is, mother,” she told her, “our religious vocation, and how much I thank our good God for having given it to me!” She made her farewells in these terms: “Farewell, mother, I shall not see you again on earth, but we shall meet again in heaven, so make a good sacrifice.” At the door, she cast a last look at her good mother whose heart was broken, but resigned. When she got back to the infirmary, she told the infirmarian: “You know it costs a great deal to say good bye to your mother before dying, but it is all for our good God.”

“The thought of having received Extreme Unction filled her with joy. “You would not be able to believe,” she said, “what graces of strength and peace this sacrament gives.”

“The poor child was very ill the following night. At 12:30 we called the Chaplain, who as a measure of prudence was spending the night on the outside. He immediately gave her Holy Communion.

“At about nine o’clock in the morning she seemed to recover some life. Her good mother was told of it and expressed the desire to see her again one last time, but it was impossible for our dear invalid to return to the parlour.

“With the improvement continuing, Mrs. G… had her asked if she could leave.

“Yes,” she replied, “it is preferable if mother goes; tell her that she should abandon herself to the will of God, as it is in this abandonment that she will find the strength and peace that she needs. Let her read “Abandonment to the will of God” by Father de Caussade, as reading it will do her a great deal of good.”

“Let her kiss all the family for me. We shall see each other again in heaven.”

“From the day when she received Extreme Unction, we watched over her every night. She was very grateful to those who devoted themselves to remaining with her. They had to speak to her constantly about our good God.

“She communicated as often as her state permitted. It was such a great consolation to her to receive her Jesus! She said with her childlike naïveté: “He is speaking to me. He is telling me to suffer well and love Him a lot.”

“One evening, suffering more than usual, she held her crucifix in her feverish fingers, kissed it with all her strength and cried out: “My Jesus, I love You, I love You! Not because of the hell that You will deliver me from, nor because of the heaven You will give me, but for Your own sake, for You alone, my Lord, for my Jesus alone! The more I suffer, the more I love You.”

“A few days before her death, when the Infirmarian was doing her thanksgiving after Holy Communion, she interrupted her and made her a sign to stop. When I came to see her, she told me: “Sister Marie-G… was doing my acts for me after Holy Communion, but I told her to stop because our good Jesus wanted to speak to me.”

“I would go every evening to hear the candid and touching account of what the good God had told her during the day, the acts that He had inspired in her, and recite the evening prayer with her, which she heard with a truly surprising attention, given the feebleness to which she had been reduced.”

This is the end of the interesting notes that Reverend Mother was kind enough to communicate to us. We will have very little else to add to them. It remains to us only to say with what sentiments of love and confidence our dear little Sister rendered her soul into the hand of the God whom she loved so much.

Always impatient to go and see her Jesus, she found her last hours upon earth very long ones. Delirium seized her through the strength of a fever that nothing could stop, and on her last night, the Sister who was watching over her could scarcely perceive any lucidity at times, and this was only to address some acts of love to her Jesus.

In the morning, a comatose state, so often deceiving, gave way to the agitations of the fever, and the Sister Infirmarian asked her: “Do you recognize me?” A light pressure of her hand was the reply.

Reverend Mother, forewarned, arrived straight away, happy for this moment of lucidity, or rather without speech as she seemed to be sleeping. Our dear dying Sister was no doubt still formulating a supreme act of love and abandonment in the bottom of her heart.

The Chaplain entered and we recited the recommendation of her soul with him, and our good Mother stood beside our dying Sister. The blessed candle was there in her hand and lit up her pale and calm face. You would have said a child was sleeping…

And so she passed away, without shaking, without contractions, into the arms of the God whom she had always loved so much and whose possession she desired with so much ardour! This was on 31st January 1899.

Her zeal for Gregorian chant had once again been revealed a few days before her death, she had asked on several occasions, if the Office of the Dead had been well enough prepared for the Sisters to sing it for her. “Have you repeated my Office?” she often asked the Sister Infirmarian, and the choir Sisters who came to visit her.

So, thanks to her foresight, the Office of the Dead was performed in its entirely, and with a piety and effect that left a profound impression upon all those who heard it and were to celebrate her soul.

Also, while the remains of our dear little Sister were lying in the lower chapel, by closing the grille, we were able to sing first Vespers from the gallery, and the invitatorium and the second Vespers of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, in such a way that one would have said that divine Providence wished to surround those virginal remains with singing, rather than with tears and regrets. Death never appeared less dismal.

Her funeral was of the same kind. In spite of an intense cold, made worse by persistent rain, seventeen priests considered it an honour to come and pray beside our dear Sister, and enhanced the beauty of our religious ceremonies with their presence, accompanying her to our little cemetery. This cortege of white surplices and blue mantles had something heavenly about it. These gentlemen expressed all their pious emotions when they reached the enclosure.

And we, her Sisters, completed our pilgrimage within this blessed Monastery, embalmed with the memory of her virtues and her affectionate cordiality. Then we asked her to grant us the precious grace of fulfilling like her, with a great heart and a very pure love, the will of God which is the sanctification of life and the food of eternal beatitude. Amen.

[1] Died in an odour of sanctity on 23rd July 1898..

This necrology is translated from Fleurs de l'Institut des Rédemptoristines by Mr John R. Bradbury. The copyright of this translation is the property of the Redemptoristine Nuns of Maitland, Australia. The integral version of the translated book will be posted here as the necrologies appear.

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